Archive for Thursday, March 11, 2004

Opinion: Searching for good character

March 11, 2004

I don't envy Joe Keeler right now.

Sure, he's got to be relieved to have gotten a head football coach like Steve Hopkins, who seems to be a very caring, energetic guy who also happens to have a great football resume.

Keeler truly deserves to be commended on finding Hopkins, but he still has to look for a new basketball coach.

He must have been feeling the pressure these past few weeks, because the guys he's looking to replace, Paul Brown and Bruce Courtney, couldn't be better human beings.

Given some of the negativity I've heard in the stands this year, there are probably some in the community who would settle for coaches who are more abrasive than Brown and Courtney, in exchange for more victories, which is too bad.

At halftime of one of the boys basketball games this season, a guy approached me and asked me what I thought about Courtney.

It seems he had been an athlete in his day and was scouting high schools for a place that would groom his sons to be winners.

He said he thought the Bobcats, who were winless at the time, weren't playing up to their talent and that it had to be Courtney's fault.

I acknowledged that the Bobcats had looked undisciplined on the floor at times, but added that I had seen how much Courtney really cared about his players and that, in that sense, he was a great coach.

When the guy pressed me for details I said the first thing that came to my mind.

"Well, if they were my kids I'd definitely rather have them play for Bruce Courtney than for Bobby Knight," I said.

The guy looked at me like I was crazy, but I stand by that statement.

His reaction made me think about the whole mixed-up mess that sports have become, even on the high school level.

Our society is so concerned about winning at all costs that we glorify abusive jerks like Bobby Knight and Paul "Bear" Bryant and rip into genuine, humble coaches.

We're willing to overlook little things like verbal and sometimes even physical abuse of players as long as the win-loss record is good.

But if the record isn't so good, even for a few years, all the character in the world won't save coaches from being jeered and taunted.

That's too bad. And part of it is the media's fault.

When I met with the basketball players before the season started I told them they were privileged to have a hometown sports page devoted almost entirely to their high school. But now I'm not so sure.

Maybe relentlessly covering high school sports just puts more pressure on the coaches and players than is necessary.

Sports journalism, for the most part, is about reporting who won and who lost.

High school sports should be about more; they should be about growth, camaraderie and school spirit.

But don't tell my bosses that. I need the money.

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