"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bobby Knight and the Power of the Press

Never a silent KnightTomorrow night Texas Tech basketball coach Bobby Knight goes out to break Dean Smith's record for lifetime victories by an NCAA men's basketball coach. Knight has been vilified for years by the press, and of course some of his behavior has certainly earned rebuke. However, as Michael Ledeen points out in National Review Online, the press tends to hold Knight to a higher standard than it sets for most coaches. For example, Ledeen notes,
Yes, he’s got a temper. I have never known a winning coach in any spot who did not have a terrible temper. A few years ago I went to the Final Four in Indianapolis and watched Wisconsin lose to Florida. The Wisconsin coach was named Bennett, and everybody loved him. At a certain point one of his players committed a stupid foul and he called timeout, walked onto the court, and let fly at this poor kid with a torrent of abuse that would have made Knight blush (which is saying something). We were sitting two rows down from the Arctic Circle, and we heard every epithet. But there was no mention of it in the press coverage, because the hunting pack had decided the guy was lovable.
That is a thoroughly correct observation, and I'll add the "why" to it. The real reason the press go after Knight so aggressively is not his infamous actions such as chucking a player under the chin during a game or throwing a chair, unpleasant as those incidents may look on television.

The press will forgive even things such as that—consider the kind of rancid behavior we've seen on football and baseball fields that has been entirely forgotten by the press.

But what the media won't forgive or forget is being exposed as ignorant. And that that is what Knight consistently does in his postgame press conferences and other public forums. Knight treats the press just as he does his players: when they do something stupid, he tells them so, in no uncertain terms.

His press conferences are often hilarious, as he takes ignorant writers to task for asking absurdly stupid questions.

Knight is the one sports figure who does this consistently, and he has paid the price in public scorn. Yet he doesn't appear to mind at all. Here is a man who does what he thinks is right and doesn't give a crud who thinks otherwise. That's a very masculine way to act, and Knight makes no apologies for it. That's another reason many in the press fear and dislike him: he's not the type to worry about other people's opinions and back down under fire. Instead, he fights back.

That's what men do, and it's something our modern mores find unacceptable. That's a pity. We need more examples of fortitude like Bob Knight.

Congratulations to Coach Knight on tying the record for victories. I wish him continued success.

From Karnick on Culture.

5 comments:

Evanston said...

Gotta agree with STK and the Ledeen article. It's not like Knight ever hid the fact that he's a disciplinarian. When you decide to play for him, you know what you're getting. It's not for everyone, and that's fine. The fact that he wins shows he's attracting players who want to be challenged. We got the same type of scrappy types in the Marine Corps. They were not captains of the football team or other self-satisfied folks, they were/are kids who recognize their deficiencies and want to be better. That's why our advertising doesn't focus on skills (fly a plane/go to college/ learn computers/etc.) and actually uses real Marines to "sell" becoming a Marine. And it works, not just for recruiting, but for results in combat. Knight has had the same success. His interest in military history (as mentioned in the Ledeen article) is not surprising in that light. I second the congratulations to Coach Knight for his accomplishments, not just in terms of victory on the court, but in developing boys into men.
To digress on a tangential issue, after then Indiana University President(now NCAA sports Commissioner) Miles Brand kicked Knight out of IU, a friend's father remarked "the pinkos have taken over the University." No doubt. What great accomplishments Miles Brand has made now...like unilaterally banning indian tribe names and sanctioning schools that fail to cooperate. Who is the bully now? Those who preach "tolerance" are often the most intolerant of all. Tomorrow evening I'll be smiling and hope that IU names its arena after Coach Knight (just like was done recently at Duke for Coach K) just to give the big FU to former IU BMOC Miles Brand.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Of course, Leonardo DiCaprio will play him in the movie.

Kathy Hutchins said...

STK may have come to Indianapolis too late to have seen the show Coach Knight did with Chuck Marlowe, the sports director at WTTV. Marlowe was a bonehead and seemed deep down to know it, and Knight used to take him apart week after week, affably but mercilessly. What was so impressive was that, in between insulting Marlowe and talking over his head, Knight made concerted attempts to educate his audience about the craft and science of basketball. He is not just one of the most fascinating sports personalities of the 20th century, he is an honest and critical scholar and strategist, who approaches the court and the locker room like Wellington approached Napoleon. I'm sure the videotapes of these programs have long since disappeared, but if they could be released on DVD today they would both top the comedy charts and be better basketball primers than anything that has aired on ESPN in the past 20 years.

Tom, I'm sure you're right; Leonardo DiCaprio would be perfectly cast as Miles Brand.

Evanston said...

Apologies to everyone, and particularly Big Chief Brand: his real name is "Myles" (not "Miles"). Or why don't we just get real and call him "Leonardo" Brand?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, things being what they are these days, I figgered they's cast DiCaprio as Knight.