Thursday, February 28, 2008


I was watching "Big Monday" on ESPN this week (the Big-12 game of the week, basically), and I saw something that disturbed me. It's not the first time I've seen something like this, but for some reason, it really hit home this time.

I've written before about how boorishly college coaches behave. This time, though, I was struck by something else. The Kansas State coach was named Frank Martin, and there were several times when his players came off the floor (in the process of losing the game) that he was right in their faces, screaming. His eyes were bugged out and he was practically foaming at the mouth.

He was, in short, insane.

If any of us had been walking down a street and seen this guy walking toward us with that look on his face, we would have expected a shiv in our chest within seconds, buried up to the handle.

Here's what struck me: somehow, "coaches" have somehow become a protected class for sociopathic behavior. They're "leaders of young men." But WTF are they leading them TO, exactly, when they act like this? Prison?

Martin isn't the only coach who acts like that, not by a long shot. And if any of his players acted like that on the court, they'd quickly be ejected. So what in the world are we teaching young people about responsibility and behavior when these coaches are constantly lauded by networks like ESPN?

Fan behavior seems to have gotten steadily worse in college sports (here's an excellent article about Kevin Love's return to Oregon), and I think the coaches are at least partially responsible. If they're totally out of control, why wouldn't a fan think that it's totally acceptable for him to be out of control, too?

What I find darkly amusing about all this is the comparison between college basketball coaches and pro coaches. You'll almost never see a pro coach go all "stabber" on a player or referee from the bench. Even though the stakes are far, far higher than in college, and even though coaching at the pro level is almost exponentially more complex, pro coaches manage to generally act like grown-ups during a game. In the colleges, though, the absolute zenith of self-control that many coaches seem to be able to manage is not wetting their own pants from rage.

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