Thursday, September 11, 2008

Coach on a RAMPAGE!

On the front page upper left corner of the Lexington Herald-Leader (11 September) in large boldface letters is this caption: Brooks Bemoans Cats' Practices. Wow! The definition of "bemoan" is: "to express deep grief or distress over; to regard with displeasure, disapproval, or regret." So…the UK football coach is currently in a period of mourning and distress, displeased with his team and regrets something, maybe ever coming to Lexington, Ky., in the first place. He is considered so distraught by the folks at the newspaper that his predicament deserves front-page notice.

The big headline remarking the coach's discomfiture is on the front page of the Sports Section, to wit, RICH ON A RAMPAGE. The definition of "rampage" is: "a course of violent, riotous, or reckless action or behavior." So…according to the newspaper folks (at least those who write headlines), Coach Brooks is behaving rather peculiarly these days, perhaps even criminally – riots are serious business – and makes one wonder if perhaps he will soon be institutionalized either in jail or some type of rehab facility or maybe just be required to attend sensitivity-training classes, the university being understanding when emotional upheavals occur within its faculty, staff, student body and even the athletic department, perhaps because six- and seven-figure salaries simply make it hard for coaches' families to get by.

The paper's picture of the coach exhibiting his rampage is a sight to behold. With a clenched fist he is obviously engaging in a full-wide-mouth snarl guaranteed to scare even 20-something linebackers, let alone college freshmen and small children. Pictures of two of Brooks' coaches are also displayed, both with expressions that do indeed appear mournful, even pathetic. One is quoted as saying, "All you hear is my voice screaming. I'm tired of screaming." Well, what part of his anatomy other than his voice could be used for "screaming," in the first place? Has anyone ever heard an ear or a nose scream? And if he's tired of screaming, why doesn't he just stop? That seems SO simple.

Well, it seems that the three coaches, whose combined salaries are calculated in the millions, not to mention the multitude of other overpaid coaches, were just unhappy with the way their young charges were practicing and either spilled their guts to a sportswriter or were simply overheard by him, not thinking that their words would constitute front-page coverage. Actually, the former option would seem to be the best bet – loose talk and publicity – though one may draw his own conclusions. Frankly, one wonders if that screaming could possibly compare with the infamous scream by Democrat National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, when he lost Iowa and consequently went on a well-televised rampage in 2004 while stumping for the presidency.

Coach Brooks can have his moments of sensitivity, however. Just a few days ago, he went on the record as not appreciating one bit the fact that a player had been (gasp) booed by the spectators during a game, ostensibly – and mistakenly, of course – for not playing too well. The fans, who had paid outrageous prices for the privilege of both watching the action and reacting, were over the top, according to the coach, never mind that he and nearly all other coaches rant and rave at their players as a routine matter during a game. In fact, some of the ranting is more entertaining than the game.

Coach Brooks said, "We're not getting a lot of leadership in practice, and that is very, very disturbing … I'm not very happy." One wonders who is supposed to provide leadership, if not all the coaches he has standing around…or screaming. He also said, "When you're not very good, you have to work hard to get better." Ah…now one can see the problem. Brooks doesn't think much of his team's performances up to this point, so naturally he's entitled to bemoan, go on a rampage or even bend over and just eat grass, which would certainly be evidence of some sort of rampaging. After all, what's an unhappy coach to do?

Also on the front-page of the Sports Section is an article about Vince Young, quarterback of the NFL Titans from Nashville, who, it seems, had also become unhappy over some booing concerning his play. Indeed, it seems that the coach had enlisted the police to help find Young and check on his emotional well-being, though the matter was also termed a misunderstanding blown out of proportion by the media. Young agreed to a five-year deal in 2006, with an option for a sixth, with $25.7 million guaranteed and an overall value that could reach $58 million with option and roster bonuses and salary. Now…that's enough to make anyone cry – right? Most folks would gladly accept a humongous afternoon of booing for let's just say…a couple sawbucks plus change?

Brooks and his coaches deal with full-scholarship, free-ride youngsters the same age as tens of thousands of other guys facing life-or-death situations every day halfway around the world. If he wants his players to see what it takes to be a man and show leadership, before practice every day he might show them a clip of a soldier's routine day/night in Afghanistan or Iraq. And then – if he wants to show some leadership himself – he might just stop the whining to the press and get on with it.

This is not to denigrate sports, a great American institution. It is to point out that when athletes and coaches get to the point that they think they're the greatest thing since cheerleaders…they need help.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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