Sunday, April 07, 2013

My Sunday Feeling

A new NCAA Champion on the men's side will be crowned tomorrow night in Atlanta.  I think Louisville win it all but Syracuse and Michigan look awfully good right now as well.  Even though I can't say for certain who will win, I can say for certain that Rutgers will not.  But a sub .500 program rocked the basketball world when a video was leaked depicting Mike Rice, the former Rutgers head coach, engaged in what appeared to be abuse of the worst sort of his players.

The video depicts Rice kicking players, grabbing them, throwing basketballs at them and belittling them by referring to them as "fags" and "faggots."  After the video went viral around last Tuesday, the AD fired Rice and then resigned himself.  And it's not over.  The Rutgers faculty has now called for the resignation of the President.  If you want to see what all the fuss is about, look here: .  Only make sure that you don't play it in the presence of either children or longshoremen.

I'm not naive.  I know stuff happens in the gym and on the practice field.  One of my football coaches used to hit us in the helmet with the heel of his hand when somebody screwed up.  It didn't hurt and it was mainly just loud.  I didn't think much of it then, and oddly enough I don't think much of it now.  And coaches yell.  I certainly got yelled at a lot when I played.  I likewise didn't think much about it then and I don't think about it now.  I actually ran into my high school basketball coach at the cardiology clinic.  He looked like a sick old man.  Nothing like the shirt-grabbing, whistle-throwing, line drill inducing martinet that I knew back in the day.

And I'm not opposed to a coach touching a player.  There's only one way I know to teach somebody how to box out under the glass.  The coach gets the player on his or her back and roots her out.  Back when I coached Little League and Babe Ruth I was a shirt grabber of the first water.  But I never grabbed a shirt in anger and never a fistful.  Just a couple of fingers to get a kid's attention.  I never yelled.  Well, I never yelled much.  If you slung a bat after striking out, you got your ass climbed.  But that was about it.

But the actions depicted on the video show a man that seems to have an anger management problem to the max.  Certainly you shouldn't kick a player.  Certainly, you shouldn't shove them in the back.  And you sure as hell shouldn't call them derogatory names.  Especially in an era where everybody is a potential videographer.

Which brings me to the following thought.  I have heard many people wonder why the players put up with this.  One friend wondered if they tolerated it because they needed their scholarships.  Another wondered if they were engaged in some sort of weird Stockholm Syndrome in which they bonded with their captors.

I have another thought.  Maybe they didn't think it was any big deal.  Indeed, one of the reason that Rutgers didn't fire Wise right of the bat when they it was first made available was because none of the players complained about their treatment.  And some of his former players have come to his defense.  Further, I'm sure that Rutgers videotaped most of their practices.  Most teams do.  And so if the video that got leaked is an example of how Mike Rice typically ran a practice as is alleged, surely there are other similar incidents preserved for posterity.  Rice wouldn't have taped himself in action if he thought he was doing something wrong.  Nobody's that stupid.

Still, when you belittle people, you are in essence reducing them to an object.  This is what abusers do.  An institution of higher learning would not tolerate this behavior in the dorm.  It sure as hell isn't going to tolerate it from one of its employees just because he makes a lot of money.

But I wonder.  Would Rutgers have canned Mike Rice if we had won 20 games?  Bobby Petrino supposedly lit players and coaches up routinely when he coached at Arkansas.  If he hadn't hired his girlfriend he might still be up there.  He may have been an exceedingly unpleasant person to be around but he won football games.  That's all that matters.

New Hog head coach Bret Bielema certainly won big at Wisconsin brandishing a tough, hard nose approach to football.  And yet he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that his approach to handling players is "Praise loudly and criticize softly."

Sounds like a good plan.  Because somewhere a camera is always rolling.

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