Sports fans should cringe when they see the raw video showing former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice bullying his teammates during a practice session. Yes, I said bullying. Rice is seen pushing, shoving, physically lifting a young player off the floor by his shirt collar and throwing basketballs at various parts of another player's anatomy when he made some type of ball handling mistake.
It is disgusting behavior by anyone's standards. Rice's actions almost made Bobby Knight look like a gentleman by comparison. At least Knight's thrown chairs didn't hit anybody.
However, fans I can assure you that this is probably not an isolated incident. Rice simply got caught. Someone brave enough took full advantage of today's modern social media and exposed the situation. Rice's dismissal didn't come any too soon as Rutgers now ex-athletic director will testify.
The images of Rice's practice session conjured up some not so pleasant experiences I had as a young teen with more than a couple of coaches. Despite the fact that I love sports, physical education was never one of my favorite classes. As hard as I tried, I was not blessed with a whole lot of athletic talent.
Over the years, I got used to being picked last or next to last for whatever sport selected to be played on any particular Monday, Wednesday or Friday. In softball, I usually got my one at bat a game and spent most of my time in right field where the ball was rarely hit. In flag football, I was usually put on the offensive line and matched against the opponent's largest defender – predestined for failure.
If that is not humiliating enough for an adolescent, then ridicule by a coach is simply heaping a hot coal on the fire. During my tenure in school – first through the twelfth grades – I never received any form of corporal punishment. Except the seventh grade when I received a firm swat on the backside from coach's “Board of Education” for not doing a pushup properly.
That pain wasn't nearly as bad as being ridiculed in front of my classmates for not properly passing the baton during a relay race. Amazingly, he never asked me whether or not I had any experience whatsoever when it came to running track.
Some coaches' actions were not as bad as what they did not do. My 10th grade class was full of upper classmen who were bullies. Back in the late 60s, a lot of coaches gave preferential treatment to their favorite jocks. So, it didn't matter if the “non-athletes” got pushed around. One thing I learned the hard way was not all young men are created “athletically equal.” This particular year the coach did absolutely nothing about the physical and verbal abuse that occurred well within his viewing and hearing range. Sometimes, a smirk was clearly visible on his face accompanied by an outright laugh.
Page 2 of 2 - I don't want to paint a totally negative image of coaches. Some are excellent role models and have done much to influence the lives of the young athletes they “teach.” I had some excellent coaches in college. My son, Cameron, was blessed with one of the best during his football playing tenure at Barton.
“Winning is not everything. It is the only thing.” Unfortunately, this is the quote most commonly associated with former Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi. And that is a sad commentary on our society. Coaches are primarily remembered for the number of victories they notch during the course of their career and not by the characters they shape. It takes dignity to hold your head up after a tough loss when you know you did the best you can do – because life is not one big victory lap.
Maybe sports someday will clean up its act. It's time to say good riddance to Rice and others like him.