An Act of a Coward

ImageAs an athlete, there is a competitive drive in you that allows you to take your game to the next level.  Occasionally though, this same drive results in poor judgment and decision making.  Whether or not people like it, it’s part of the game and I feel very strongly that sports would be diluted if it wasn’t a factor.  Some sports definitely embrace it more than others and I think it is an idea that would be very difficult to just change.  Casual fans and non-fans of hockey watch the game for the fighting involved, completely forgetting that there’s a 60 minute chess-match taking place.  NASCAR isn’t all that different.  How many times do you hear people talk about an amazing pass that took place as a result of getting a good bump coming out of the final corner of a race?  I guarantee it pales in comparison to the number of people talking about the wrecks and melee that occurred because a few drivers had very short fuses that day.  Regardless of what happens on the field, ice, track and wherever else you want to take this topic, things happen and we move on.

What really fires me up though is when I hear about a soccer referee in Utah fighting for his life after a being punched by a 17-year-old player in a recreational soccer league.  I would be a liar if I said I always agreed with calls that referees made.  I’m pretty sure I even lead my hockey league in penalty minutes on more than one occasion.  But would I ever go as far as making physical contact with a referee?  Not. A. Chance.

Witnesses and detectives of Taylorsville, a Salt Lake City suburb, told the Portillo family that Ricardo was hit by the player in the side of the head after he issued a yellow card.  Johana Portillo, Ricardo’s daughter, went on to say, “When he was writing down his notes, he just came out of nowhere and punched him.”  Meanwhile, the Portillo family says they are, “hoping for Ricardo’s miraculous recovery and want justice for him.”  They deserve so much more than that.  I’m sorry, but I hope this little scumbag absolutely gets the justice he deserves.  I couldn’t give two shits that the player is a minor, why does our legal system insist on booking him in juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault?  Someone’s life is on the line here and the best we’re going to get is, “those charges could be amplified if Portillo dies.”  What do you mean could be amplified?  I’m not a lawyer, but that’s 2nd Degree Murder if he dies.  Even if Mr. Portillo is able to make a miraculous recovery, I whole-heartedly believe this little punk still needs to have his ass sent to the big boys penitentiary and we’ll see how tough he really is.

Godspeed, Ricardo.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the Portillo family.

Rice’s reputation flushed down the kitchen sink (after throwing everything but the kitchen sink).

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Dodge Ball is a game in which players on two teams try to throw large balls at each other while avoiding being hit themselves.  This is perfectly acceptable – while playing Dodge Ball.  Why Mike Rice, former Rutgers Basketball Head Coach, thought it would be okay to incorporate “Dodge Ball” in to his basketball practices and peg players in the head is beyond me.  Yes, there have been tough coaches such as Vince Lombardi and Mike Ditka.  However, jump over to the other end of the spectrum and you’ll find the John Wooden and Tony Dungy’s of the coaching world.  All of whom shared one very important common denominator – success.

College basketball, while very different from professional football, is still a demanding environment to coach in because of the pressure to win, and win often.  Collegiate institutions no longer cut these men and women the slack that their predecessors would have been entitled to because athletics play such an integral role in the financial success of colleges and universities today.  Tubby Smith brought Minnesota Basketball back to relevancy.  Despite this accomplishment, Smith was still fired after posting a 124-81 record following six seasons with the Golden Gophers.  Meanwhile, it took three seasons and a record of 44-51 before Rutgers University finally fired Mike Rice.  This is of course in addition to the physical, verbal and emotional abuse that he subjected his players to for those three years.

There is the assumption that players know and understand what they’re walking in to when they commit to a program and are given an athletic scholarship.  I don’t disagree with this assumption, but after witnessing the actions of Mike Rice, it’s clear that recruits had to be unaware of how quickly a great opportunity would deteriorate in to a nightmarish situation.  It is one thing to yell and scream at players, but I’m pretty sure laying your hands on players and labeling them with homophobic slurs such as “fairy” and “faggot” don’t exactly fall in line with University policy (once again, I’m going out on a limb here).  Not only was Rice using a deliberately abusive coaching style, it is pretty clear that his intentions were to instill fear in his players.  This clearly wasn’t an effective coaching tool when you revert back to his sub-.500 record.   Yet, Rutgers University allowed these actions to continue for over two years before suspending Rice for three games, fining him $75,000 and ordering him to attend anger management classes in November of 2012.  Rice must have really been shaking in his boots, which I’m sure he threatened to shove up a players ass on more than one occasion, all while simultaneously throwing balls at the heads and groins of other players.

I understand it would be difficult for these young men to come forward for fear of being labeled “soft” and thinking they may lose their scholarship.  However, the moment video was released showcasing Rice’s actions; there should have been an immediate termination, not just a slap on the wrist.  Mike Rice is absolutely correct, there is no explanation for attempting to karate kick one of his players during a practice.  What was that anyway, Mortal Combat for middle-aged coaches?  I personally believe athletics should be a two way street and coaches need to respect their players just as much as the players are expected to respect their coaches.  With that being said, I personally think it would’ve been awesome if one of Rice’s players snapped and “finished him”.  But I suppose his termination will do.