Okay–further proof that Americans inhabit dramatically different realities.

Last week, a video surfaced showing the Rutger’s basketball coach shoving, hitting and otherwise abusing his players. The physical abuse was accompanied by verbal attacks, and it was all caught on tape. Predictably, there was an uproar. The coach was fired and the athletic director resigned under pressure. Commentary in the wake of the episode raised questions about college athletics, the pressure to win, the focus on the bottom line, and the effect of these on the purported character-and-sportsmanship-building purpose of athletic participation. Shades of Bobby Knight.


What was not predictable–at least, not in the reality I inhabit–was the conservative commentariat’s rush to defend the coach’s behavior.

Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin and others described the coach’s firing as another example of political correctness, presumably because the epithets caught on tape were anti-gay slurs. In their view, the whole incident was evidence of America’s loss of backbone, expressed in the “coddling” of young people. We’ve gone soft. Whatever happened to “spare the rod and spoil the child”? Hannity offered the information that he’d been disciplined with a belt as a child and that he’d grown up all right. (As Jon Stewart pointed out, Hannity’s “all-rightness” is a debatable proposition….)

In what reality is the abhorrent behavior displayed on that video an acceptable expression of discipline? Perhaps a more pertinent question is, in what twisted reality is the coach’s dismissal a political statement?

What we saw on that video was an undisciplined bully, someone whose lack of self-control and contempt for the young people for whom he was responsible marked him as anything but a role model. Civilized people do not reward or defend such behavior.

If condemning boorishness and brutality has become a partisan political statement, things are even worse than I thought.


  1. My guess is that 90% (perhaps more) of the people who viewed the video of the Rutgers coach were appalled by the behavior. Hannity and Malkin are hardly representative of any mainstream view, particularly on things like this, and they are just reading from a script that they always follow: support anti-gay slurs and tactics whenever possible (I’d be curious if their response/script would be the same if the coach were hurling racial epithets while throwing basketballs at kids’ heads), and accuse liberal media of all society’s ills — I only saw Jon Stewarts take down of them, did you know if they blamed Obama or Congressional Democrats as well for the coach’s firing?

  2. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse – it all equals bullying. The bullying problem between students is nearing epidemic levels in this county; those who are in charge of educating and/or training those in their charge are certainly not exempt from firing; forced retirement or prison as this country witnessed two years ago. They are worse offenders than students who bully other students. This is not a political issue; nor is it a liberal vs. conservative issue – it is a legal issue which needs to be addressed wherever and whenever it is found.

  3. The over paid idiots that wear Jock Straps to work are pretty much irrelevant to our society. That we pay attention to them at all is sad. Homophobia in sports has always been rampant. Bully behavior by “coaches” from junior high, HS and beyond was pretty normal when I was in school. Probably why I loath sports and the idiots that worship sports.

  4. Ignoring for the moment (and that’s not say) the initial boorish behavior, it’s worth noting that it occurred in November, and was both reviewed and acted upon by the Rutgers’ administration. When, however, the November video went public, the same administration reversed its action in response to public reaction. What’s interesting, at least to me, is that there’s been no discussion about whether the administration’s action in November in fact modified Rise’s subsequent behavior, which I think would be pertinent to the discussion.

    There’s no precise analogy, but suppose an employee were found to have a terrible alcohol problem, resulting in completely inappropriate behavior on the work site. The employer discovers this, suspends the worker without pay and sends him to alcohol treatment. When he returns, his behavior is modified (and that’s the part I can’t impute to Rice for lack of information). Then, five months later, the initial behavior becomes public knowledge, and because of the barrage of publicity the employee is fired. There’s never a discussion of subsequent behavior.

    Again, I’m not condoning the behavior, but do worry that there’s forever a Bonfire of the Vanities element in society that doesn’t always work well.

  5. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call Malkin and Hannity conservatives…Republicans yes, conservatives, not so much. The point is taken however, and the fact that they get to grandstand as champions of the conservative movement is much more detrimental to conservatives than it is helpful.

  6. “boorish” in my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary is used to describe “crude insensitivity”. Violent physical abuse is not in the same league as crude insensitivity; it is against the law, Judge. Alcoholic inappropriate behavior in the worksite is crude insensitivity unless it includes violent physical abuse; at that time it becomes a legal matter and modified behavior for such frequently results in jail time. The fact that the situation at Rutgers was not publicized for five months after the athletic director took action on it only makes this situation worse. Like the numerous victims at Penn State, this situation has probably been swept under the rug for years. Maybe, like Penn State, other victims will begin coming forward.

  7. I am not licensed to practice law in New Jersey. However, the elements of battery are pretty consistent throughout our 46 states and four commonwealths (and un-represented D.C.). One commits battery when one engages in a harmful or offensive touching of another without that person’s consent. Unless the players in question “consented” via their being on the team or signing scholarship contracts, to play what is considered a “non-contact” sport (right), the man committed a criminal offense. Also, SJudge makes very good points about the behavior subsequent to treatment. Nonetheless, the man committed battery (I don’t think being struck in the head by a basketball thrown at one w/specific intent by a coach is reasonably foreseeable.) One problem w/Indiana’s education system is the hiring of teachers w/the first qualification being the sport s/he can coach.

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