Monday, April 08, 2013

Monday Morning Stories With Mookie - Episode 63


The Time Mookie Pondered A Lawsuit Against All Of His Previous Coaches

If you have been reading the news this past week, you may have come across the story about the newly-fired men’s basketball coach for Rutgers University.  ESPN aired a video this past Tuesday that showed Coach Rice verbally and physically abusing his players.  “What sort of abuse?”  Well Well! Things like:

·         Throwing basketballs at the heads and bodies of various players.
·         Pushing and shoving them around.
·         Endlessly screaming at them.
·         Calling them unnecessary and hurtful names like “motherf*ckers,” “f*cking faggots,” “c*nts,” and
      my personal favorite – “sissy bitches.”

Naturally this upset everyone, and they fired the guy.  To make matters worse, it came out that the University already knew about the video over six months ago and tried to handle the situation “in-house.”  That of course has blown up in their faces, and now they are trying to cover their butts by apologizing for not firing the guy sooner.  Whatever.  Let the lawsuits begin!

The Rutgers story got me thinking back to when I played sports in school, and how I was not immune from having coaches yelling at me from time to time.  Who is to say I wasn’t “wronged” or “harmed” in some way from all of that?  I would like to know where “the line” is when it comes to deciding what is abusive and what isn’t?  Do I need to sue somebody?  I want to know!

When it comes down to it, coaching is a difficult and stressful gig.  Its like intensive parenting, especially since a lot of players act worse than most children.  Coaches have lots of people depending on them, and they are paid to do their best in respect to a lot of different interests.  They have the school, the administration, the boosters, the fans, the parents, the players, and themselves to think about.  So when I hear stories about coaches freaking out on their players, I am not surprised by it.  Trust me - I don’t condone it, but I get it. 

To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever met a coach that didn’t yell at their players at one time or another.  Part of it is just so that they are heard over the noise of the game or the crowd.  Other times you can tell they are yelling because there is a passion and intensity there, they are invested in the team’s success and they truly care.  That’s the kind of coach you want.  The right coach can pass that passion on to the players and inspire them to
bigger things. 

Then there are the ones that yell because they are insufficient, or just because they are dicks.  They serve to bring down a situation, and do no good for anybody.

An example of “insufficient:”
There was one basketball game when I was a kid where the coach YELLED my name like five times consecutively during the game because he wanted me to do something I wasn’t doing.  Then he called "time out," yelled at me some more about having my "head up my ass," and then benched me for the rest of the game.  I know what “constructive criticism” is, but I don’t think it is supposed to include the coach verbally handing you your ass in front of your team, the other team, and in front of a gym full of spectators that included your parents.   That’s what I think anyway.   Did I screw up some play during the game?  Absolutely.  I admit that the coach had reason to be frustrated and the right to let me know this, but his method of public shaming certainly did not create any sort of inspiration or passion of any kind about the game.   It did quite the opposite.

Likewise, I've had the pleasure of having coaches that were total dicks in every sense of the word.  For example:
When I played football, we had a particular coach who took perverse pleasure in making fun of people.  He would pick on the lesser-talented players, and look for laughs from the players.  I admit sometimes I laughed, but still felt bad for those kids.  One instance he acted "buddy-buddy" to a particular not-so-coordinated player, and said "Hey J.D!  Go long!"  The coach mimicked like he was going to throw a long pass to J.D, so he took off running deep.  When he turned to catch the pass, he saw the coach throw the ball maybe 10 yards and then howl with laughter.  Dick.  This coach only lasted a few years.  However, as a farewell performance of sorts - At the season ending awards banquet, the coach stood up and with all seriousness told the audience of players and family that the team effectively sucked, and that all the players were "losers."  It was an awe-inspiring speech that people still talk about today.

I had another coach that had...well an intensity for sure...but I don't know if it was the result of having a passion for what he was doing -  or just had a poor way of handling his emotions.  I had him as a coach for a few sports, and he never failed to deliver a "memorable" tirade of some kind during a season.  During a half-time during a basketball game at an away game, he managed to kick the shit out of a garbage can and damaged a toilet stall door in frustration to our level of play.  During a baseball game, he got into it with the other team's coach and started referring to his coaching technique as "bush league," and called him a "dick with ears."  That one still makes me giggle.
Insufficient or Inspiring?

Then there are the coaches that somehow inspire through threats and verbal harm.  I'm not sure how and why it works, but in some cases it does.  I think that's what the aforementioned Rutgers coach was trying to do, and maybe even took a few pages out of the Bobby Knight book of coaching techniques for his own benefit.  It is safe to say that its a good thing Bobby Knight did not do the stuff he did in this day and age.  He would have been fired and probably jailed for his antics.  It never failed to entertain though.

So I guess the point of my whole story here is that being a coach is a difficult job, and its hard to judge them unless you have been in their shoes.  I understand how someone in that profession may think that by crossing "the line" that they might get their point across, but it is nice to see that they are starting to learn more and more that you can't do that.  One truly has to thank technology and social media for helping make these instances become fewer and fewer.  Let's hope that trend continues and hope that coaches stop abusing their power, and instead - they embrace it and use it to be the positive experience it could be.

I do have to say though that if a kid is acting like a sissy bitch, I think a coach SHOULD be able to call out the player for this.  I would allow this.  "Sissy bitch" is just awesome.

I must add that while I joked about needing to sue my coaches, I am kidding and am not suing anybody. In all those years I can't say I had a coach throw balls at any of our heads and call us “mother*cking c*nt sissy bitches.”

I bet they would have loved to though.


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