Like many suburban youths, I grew up playing organized sports. During those years, I was always taught that ‘The Coach’ was a trusted, even sacrosanct entity to be esteemed at the caliber of those other bulwarks of the community—the teacher, the policeman, the priest. These were authority figures that would be a first recourse and safe harbor should things have ever gotten really ‘Twin Peaks’ weird on me.
Over time, of course, I came to discover that each of these professions is more than fully staffed with reprobates, degenerates and cretins of every possible description. If it is less than a majority that fall into this category, then it is more than a small sampling. And during the past year, sports coaches may well have established themselves as the non-pareil bad example for all of America’s youth. Let’s begin with the misdemeanors and work up from there:
Coaches Take Terrible Care Of Themselves
God bless the New York tabloids, those fonts of delightful, unfortunate puns, surreal misinformation and sheer creative invective. The New York Post might be part and parcel of a media empire which is distorting American politics to the point of full-scale demolition, but god damn if their concerns are not often my concerns. I have been waiting half a year to get to address the issue of Rex Ryan’s colossal waistline, and yet could never quite convince myself that it was a sports topic. Because it’s NOT a sports topic! It’s a carnie game: Guess the Madman’s Weight.
Recent speculation in the form of this ingenious article holds that Rex ingests 7,000 calories a day, and hints that his weight may currently be in the neighborhood of four bills. Ryan has reacted to this reporting with his customary good cheer, making genial light of the situation and seeming at times to be vying for the time-honored title of ‘America’s Best Loved Comic Big Man,’ held at various junctures by the storied likes of John Belushi, William Howard Taft, and Meatloaf.
It seems a fair question to ponder the paradox of enormous men with questionable attitudes towards nutrition motivating and instructing elite athletes. Just as it seems that Sarah Palin would be a poor choice to lead a civics seminar at Yale, 300-plus pound Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid feels like an unusual architect for the downfield exploits for a human bullet train like DeSean Jackson. However, appearances aside, Rex and Reid are big, affable and accomplished. Whatever alchemy they have achieved between the playbook and the pancake house seems to suit them fine. More worryingly…
Some of the Coaching Fat Men Are EVIL
Ryan and Reid are not by any outwardly objective standard bad men. They are good guys, good coaches… they just happen to hold the shape of silos. Recently dismissed University of Kansas coach Mark Mangino is both big and bad. The adage holds that it is always unwise to judge a book by its evil-looking cover, but Mangino appears to be a rare case in which central casting has captured the very essence of a corpulent super-villain. Half evil Southern sheriff and half Mr. Creosote from ‘The Meaning Of Life,’ he is reprehensible in appearance and temperament alike. The monstrous Mangino managed to bring an abrupt end to a successful run at UK by cruelly browbeating players, dropping such bon mots as this one to Raymond Brown, whose brother had recently been shot in the arm: “If you don’t shut up, I’m going to send you back to St. Louis so you can get shot with your homies.”
Charmless vitriol such as this is by all accounts the stock and trade of Mangino’s motivational arsenal. Amazing to think that a world-class motherfucker of this vintage would be put in charge of very young people, for any reason, even if he is the obese reincarnation of Knute Rockney.
Mike Leach from Texas Tech—he of the celebrated spread offense and generally officious manner—was recently fired from his position for locking a student athlete in a small shed after he begged out of practice following post-concussion syndrome. Leach is suing to recover his last lost salary, but really, what explanation is there for this sort of thing? Why in the wide world of sports would you incarcerate a child with a head injury? What does that gain the team? Yet another blow to the Geneva Conventions struck by the great state of Texas.
Jim Leavitt was recently dismissed from the University of South Florida job for repeatedly slugging a player and then covering it up. What is with hitting these kids? All they do is make money for the colleges for free. What ‘lessons’ are you imparting to them by beating the mortal hell out of them? Leavitt wants his job back, naturally. Wretched behavior like this has not been tolerated since… Dickensian Britain? Nevertheless, Leavitt wants his job back.
When new USC coach Lane Kiffin bolted from the University of Tennessee following one mediocre season, he left a distraught fan base, a batch of disappointed recruits and a general litany of broken promises long enough to populate your average film noir. Setting aside the ongoing perplex of what it is that makes Kiffin such an attractive coaching candidate, one cannot help but be struck by the bald, shameless, shrugging manner in which he cheerfully asserts his own best interest as first and last in every instance.
As we all know, perhaps the most important job of a college coach at a major university is to trap a supremely gifted 16-year-old athlete in a room and promise him an education, an opportunity to develop as a player, and all of the worldly pleasures that life can possibly offer in order to recruit him. This process is frequently coercive to the point of browbeating, certainly unsavory, and possibly illegal—but anyway, you would like to think that these coaches are not absolutely LYING about their intentions. You would like to think that they actually do intend to spend three or four years with these players, developing their skills, providing them course work and sating their appetites. Frequently these athletes are entrusting their future and the future of their extended family to these coaches and recruiters. Kiffin represents a recent trend in college coaching which shows positively no compunction in exploiting very young people in this way—a hard sell, followed by a quick exit and a veritable “fuck you” on the way to their next paycheck.
Student athletes can’t transfer without losing years of eligibility and frequently can’t backtrack from letters of intent or enrollment. They are essentially sold a bill of goods and then trapped.
So what gives? What evil lurks in the hearts of men with whistles? As a society, we are almost always very quick to land with two feet on immature young athletes who make misjudgments with respect to personal decorum or public discourse. Given the recent track record of their supposed mentors, this feels like a pernicious hypocrisy.