Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Leave Bobby Knight Alone

We don't seem to have a problem with sending 18 year-olds to Iraq to get blown to bits by IEDs, but judging from the non-stop media circus surrounding this incident, apparently our tender sensibilities can't cope with the idea that Bobby Knight gave one of his players a smack on the cheek to get his attention. Grow up, America.

Make no mistake about it--Knight smacked the kid. He didn't hit him hard, but he didn't "quickly lift his chin" as Texas Tech officials are attempting to spin it. That's not the point anyway. The point is, who gives a damn? Let me tell you a secret that's known to any kid who ever got to the high school level in sports: coaches will give you a bop in the head every now and again. If you can't deal with that, have your kid join math club.

I had several coaches who pushed and shoved me on occasion. The most memorable was my high school line coach, who used to not only grab us and toss us around a bit when we were consistently lining up in the wrong place, but also occasionally crack us in the helmet with a chin strap if we blew an assignment during practice. My ears rung, and I called the guy every name in the book under my breath, but I've never felt the need to get "closure" for this "trauma." Perhaps I'm just not in touch with my feelings, or maybe I'm just grateful to the guy for turning somebody with almost no athletic ability into an All-League player.

I don't condone physical abuse of players by coaches, and I agree completely with a zero tolerance policy in youth sports. On the other hand, I also think the zero tolerance crowd is wrong when they say that every bit of physical contact with a high school or college age athlete is per se abuse. Coaching sports like football and basketball requires physical contact with players. Technique demonstrations, moving players to the proper spot on the field, etc. are part of what coaches do every day. Sometimes that contact is a little on the forceful side, because "knowledge maketh a bloody entrance." Sorry, but a coach giving a player a little shove or a smack on the head isn't abuse, and nobody who ever played a contact sport will tell you otherwise.

Bobby Knight is a complex man and an extraordinary basketball coach. He's also one of the biggest jerks in all of sports, but if that was a crime, nobody would be able to field a college or pro sports team. Still, the guy inspires unbelievable loyalty among former players, and there's no doubt that he goes the extra mile for them. There have been a number of incidents involving Knight and his players, but almost always, it is the players who jump to Knight's defense. Knight's bashers will say that this is because they fear retribution. I think a more likely explanation is that they know something about him that the rest of us don't.


Anonymous said...

This Bobby Knight stuff is ridiculous. If Texas Tech does't care, the kid doesn't care, his parents don't care and Knight doesn't care... um... why does ESPN care? Why should anyone care?

This shouldn't have even been an incident yet we're getting non-stop coverage on this.

Vinny said...

You gotta love that the General slapped that kid. Knight might be "mercurial" or just nuts, but he's effective and pretty fair.

What you don't have to like is Dickie V's apologia.