We all know by now that the sports world is littered with perceived disrespect, but this weekend felt like mini-zenith in the Era of Self-Imposed Haters. Sixty-eight teams entered the NCAA tournament, and I have little doubt that sixty-eight coaches spent the weekend assuring their assembled squads that, in fact, no one believed they would get beyond this round, that everyone doubted their fitness for either A.) Being included in the tournament field, or B.) Being seeded wherever they happened to be seeded. The NCAA tournament is built that way; its format demands that coaches utilize every form of motivation imaginable in order to keep their teams from losing focus. Therefore, we hear Connecticut players, after winning five games in five days in what everyone agreed was the toughest conference tournament in American history, denouncing naysayers who almost certainly don't exist; and we hear Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart admitting to splicing a highlight reel of everyone who even marginally disrespected his team on national television.
Now, I have reason to believe that Shaka Smart is an intelligent man. He attended Kenyon College, a top-tier liberal arts school;* he is the head coach of a Division I basketball program at age 33. I doubt he even believes that the venom against a relatively unknown program is as stark and unforgiving as he makes it out to be; what Shaka Smart knows is that it works. Who among us has not been motivated by a snub? Who among has not defied the directives of Obi-Wan Kenobi and utilized anger in order to advance our standing? Such is sports in the 21st century; in an era of unbridled communication, this may be the most effective way to cut through the noise, by encouraging young men to embrace the dark side. Long live the Empire.
*Where he dated my fiancee's high-school friend, which is irrelevant, but kind of cool.