By now everyone has had a chance to view the raw videotapes of now former Rutgers men’s head basketball coach being “abusive” towards some of his players during a basketball practice some time earlier this year.
Now, there are two ways to look at this:
1) You can let someone tell you what you’re supposed to think by watching it, which will possibly lead you to believe it is to be the subject of outrage; or…
2) You can think for yourself and decided how to feel about it, which may or may not lead you believe it is the subject of outrage.
I’ve seen the video quite a bit, and highly encourage people to turn the sound down to avoid any commentary so that you find yourself in the second group as opposed to the first. Once again, ESPN is sensationalizing something to the point where it’s almost impossible to form your own opinion on the subject.
Here at Sports Blog Movement, we try to do our best to objectively look at this from all angles. It would be dishonest to say that ESPN is not part of our world, as they are the main cable sports network. However, they make a lot of mistakes and seem to have an endless supply of columnists from a dying medium barking orders about who should be ashamed of this and that.
All that said, I didn’t feel too particularly offended by the video itself. I realize this piece will be full of a lot of things that the average reader might disagree with, and that’s fine. You’ll also notice that it’s not going to be full of a lot of semantics regarding Rice’s suspension late year. I don’t know how any of that stuff works (likely neither do you) so without further ado here are a few reasons that I am not at all shocked by what I saw on that video:
1) Most importantly, these kids are going to a top tier university for free and at a school like Rutgers, nearly all of them will leave with a degree
Does it give this guy a right to treat them with what is being viewed as “such disrespect”? I’m not one hundred percent convinced the answer to that question is “no”. Surely the ideal situation is to treat your players like a Coach K or a Jim Boeheim would, but keep in mind it’s the coach’s team and if for some reason he sees a lack of discipline out of his guys I don’t think that what I saw in that video is as out of line as some of these talking head jackoffs seem to think it is. Not to be the guy saying “Don’t be a pussy” here, but it is just another example of how soft the world of sports is getting when it comes to disciplinary measures.
2) What is the likelihood this goes on all over the place?
It sounds to me like this entire problem arose from the fact that Rutgers was having another disappointing season, and that its players were looking for something to blame their poor performance on. So what is the possibility that this very thing is taking place around several other collegiate basketball programs around the NCAA. I mean, if you’re 30-3 heading into the tournament and your coach aggressively calls you out in practice and tosses a basketball in your direction to try to light a fire under you, maybe you need it. My point is, it’s very possible that the gymnasium that Rutgers is practicing in isn’t the only gym where this is happening.
3) What is the likelihood that this has been going on for as long as collegiate sports have been around?
This is almost more of a stupid question than it is a talking point, because we all know that coaches were allowed much more wiggle room when it comes to stuff like this back before there were security cameras above every urinal in America ready to capture their every shake. The stories that we hear about past coaches putting their players through hell are probably just a fraction of the humiliation and other such behavior that occurred on the many bus rides home in the 50s and 60s. Coaches used to be able to coach, and forty or fifty years ago a coach getting fired for such behavior would be an outrage of the parents of the players who were attending a university under the assumption that coach would be there to see their kid through the whole educational experience. Nowadays, the kids themselves can get a guy fired if they feel too butthurt over any particular incident such as this one.
To be fair, here are a couple of arguments against Coach Rice and his actions. You’ll notice that they are much easier to write off or “debunk” than the arguments for him. Here they are, complete with a write off for each one.
1) The players are not in a position to retaliate
The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about this situation has to be that a player is taught to listen to his coach. This puts the player in a tough spot, because he can’t respond in the same combative manner that he was approached in when he was “attacked” in the first place.
Why this is not a good enough argument
College basketball players are young, vulnerable men and women who are still in the developmental stages of their decision making. There is a reason the coach is the coach and they are those who are being coached. As long as no physical damage has been done, there should be nothing to worry about. Which leads me to my next point…
2) There is always the possibility of being injured whenever a coach makes physical contact with a player or unexpectedly throws a projectile in their direction
Anytime that a coach goes after a player, it’s pretty much common knowledge that the incident is unexpected as most modern day coaching is pretty hands-off. So there’s always the possibility that a guy could pull a muscle or aggravate an existing injury in this situation. With such time and money invested into the health and well-being of a player…
Why this is not a good enough argument
Oh for God’s sake, who am I kidding? – A guy’s not going to tear his ACL when some forty-one year old who still plays racquetball every Tuesday chucks a basketball at his knee.
3) Ryan Graham from SBM wrote a compelling piece regarding this matter
This is a good enough argument, but it’s not enough for me to change my mind because I am very stubborn.
A few more things:
I think that another thing that we need to remember here is that the real issue should be that Mike Rice was doing a fucking terrible job as the coach of the Rutgers’ men’s basketball program. When you compound that with the fact that some of these kids felt that they were being treated unfairly, that’s where the heart of the “scandal” comes from. For every story of a Mick Jagger and a Keith Richards not getting along while still selling millions of albums, there are thousands of stories of a Joe Nobody and a Tom Something or other getting in some fight over backup vocals and vowing to never come over to the drummer’s mother’s basement again to jam out. What’s the point of that analogy? Failure magnifies problems. If Rutgers was one of the four teams left in the tourney, we’d be sitting here talking about how amazing of a year they had. Instead, those kids had to have a reason for coming home for the summer under .500 and this gave them a perfect opportunity to do it in that manner.
Obviously there is also a “hot-button” aspect of this as well, as supposedly Rice was yelling homophobic slurs at one of the players on more than one occasion. Since we know which word we’re referring to because we’re all adults here, there’s no need to censor it. I guess by the time you’re 20 years old, you should be comfortable enough with who you are to not let something that bother you. Now I know I said earlier that some of these kids are in the developmental stages of their existence, but I also think that they are probably mature enough that when they hear the word “faggot” tossed in their direction, something goes off inside of their brain that says “He can’t mean that as a personal attack, because I don’t put hard dicks in my mouth”. Granted athletes aren’t the smartest subsector of people in the world, but I have to at least believe they know the difference between being attacked with bad intentions and being motivated. It couldn’t possibly have been because he was trying to damage their ego and reach his goals, because his goal was the NCAA tournament and he didn’t get there BECAUSE HE IS A SHITTY COACH. See how this is all coming full circle? Young men that age use that word all of the time when talking to each other, if you’re secure in your sexuality it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Also, this whole idea that college athletics has developed a “black eye” because of this incident is so far beyond ridiculous I don’t know where to start. First off, it’s an awful analogy because nobody actually got a black eye. What we seem to be forgetting here is there aren’t any or scars or bruising that occurred as a result of this whole debacle, so the fact that it’s gotten to this level of media hype is incredulous. I can’t believe this article is this long to begin with. Also, the people reacting like this video is the most horrible thing they’ve seen in recent memory sure have a short memory. Did you see anything in that video that was more horrifying than the Ware injury? Of course not, and that’s precisely my point. To use words like “travesty” and “horrible” doesn’t exactly cut through the skin when we’re not even two full years removed from the Penn State scandal, and it is almost insulting to use words like that when you think about what happened on THAT campus. College athletics might be the biggest cesspool of treachery in the sporting world, but there are things going on that are much worse than this. This is a minor issue, and I hardly consider it as big of a story that it has been made out to be.
Am I defending Coach Rice’s actions? Sort of, yes. Would I handle things in that same manner to increase effectiveness amongst my players? Probably not, but there’s no way for me to know because the odds of me being in charge of a struggling (or successful) NCAA basketball program are not very high. My point is, don’t let ESPN tell you how to feel about things like this. If you watch the tape and say to yourself “I don’t think it’s that bad”, then don’t let somebody convince you to engage in manufactured outrage. Personally, I didn’t see anything on that tape that I wouldn’t expect to see from a program that is currently struggling at the moment but has had better success in recent memory.
Some facets of the world are becoming more and more hardcore, and a lot of that is due to the increasing nature of people being weak-minded and hypersensitive. Here’s an example: A couple of weeks back, new T-Mobile CEO John Legere kicked off T-Mobile’s event in New York City with an unrelenting tirade against the carrier’s competitors. “Stop the bullshit,” the CEO said, referring to the traditional subsidy model being pushed by Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint. “Carriers are really nice to you… once every 23 months,” Legere said, adding that he thought the idea of locking customers in to two year contracts was “the biggest crock of shit I’ve ever heard in my entire life”. To further demonstrate his confidence in the carrier’s new strategy, Legere said plainly “If we suck this month, drop us. Go somewhere else.”
Now what right minded investor wouldn’t go out and pick up a hundred shares of that company after hearing something like that? And can you see how this relates to the mentality that you should have as a team of any kind? If the goal is to win, in my opinion you can deal with a couple of F-bombs in practice and a basketball to the chest isn’t going to put you in the hospital.
In other words, like Legere said: Stop the bullshit. Think for yourself when it comes to what you see and hear. Don’t jump to ridiculous conclusions. – And if you’re an athlete and you don’t like how you’re being treated and think it sucks, drop your free ride and go to another educational institution.