Once a sportswriter, always a sportswriter, I guess.
I just saw that Rutgers University fired its head basketball coach after three seasons, ostensibly because of some practice videos, aired on ESPN, that showed him pushing some of his players and calling them homosexuals. Perhaps in stronger language than that. (There were subtitles.)
Now, far be it for me to condone a basketball coach cussing out players in a practice at a Big East school, where just about every player is selected for his ability to maybe play in the NBA. But if every coach in major college sports were selected on his skills as a diplomat, the final four would be very dull indeed. Ask one Robert Knight.
A more telling reason for Mike Rice’s firing may well be his last three years’ record of 44-51.
Some years ago, Oral Roberts University had just come to national basketball prominence. It was 1973, and two guys who have provided me over the years with endless hours of both friendship and entertainment could not have been happier. Both Oral Roberts and former head coach Ken Trickey are no longer with us; but back then, President Roberts told Trick publicly how much he loved him.
Trick answered with a question:
Would you still love me if I was eight and 20?
“We’d love you,” said the man the University is named for. “But we’d miss you.”
In the case of Rutgers, they don’t even have to love Rice. Insult the gay community, and you’re fired. Even if the real reason is probably 44-51.
Explain that to me. I hate to go all Bill O’Reilly on us, but we can have the Federal Government use our money to pay for putting a crucifix in urine and call it art. The ACLU can file and win endless lawsuits telling Christians they can’t post a cross on public land. But let a basketball coach call someone a fairy, and even Chris Christie gets into the act as the Governor of New Jersey. Who knew fatso was so sensitive.
I’ll bet that if Coach Rice called a player a “bible thumper” or a “mackerel snapper,” nobody would have said a word.
Let me be clear here. I’m all for civility in basketball coaches. But no basketball player was hurt in the making of those videos. They were all there voluntarily, and they all stayed there. You know, getting a quality college education while auditioning for the NBA. That’s why they are called student-athletes.
I’d be willing to give pretty good odds that if Rice were 85-10 over the last three years, he’d still be there, too. If they had even played their way into an invitation to the big dance this year, he’d still be head coach.
There are two things at work here.
First is institutional hypocrisy at Rutgers. And second is the willingness of people who should know better to cower in the face of political correctness.
When I was growing up, “gay” meant happy, a “fairy” was a mythical creature that gave you money when you lost a tooth, and a “fag” was a cigarette.
Now, they actually have a commercial scolding kids who use the phrase “that’s so gay”.
What’s next? A rewrite of the late George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on television?
I didn’t start out to make sport of what we now call the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, and Transgender community (my original target was Rutgers.) But you know what? If the shoe fits. . .
Photo credit: Dave Schumaker (Creative Commons)