Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On "Disrespect": A Brief Observation

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.


Jim said...

My own "Brief Observation On Disrespect":

Why do folks have such a (broad) and accepted view on what will happen when an athlete is disrespected?

'Andrew Smith (Butler) shouldn't be talking to Gilbert Brown (Pitt) before he shoots these free throws. That's only going to psych Brown up to make them!'

Not everyone has the same reaction to "bulletin board material" as anyone else, but at least a coach (especially one with as few guys in the room as a basketball coach) has an idea of what will help vs hurt his own guys.

Making assumptions about how random (college!) athletes will respond to something as emotional as live trash talking in a big moment? That's just silly.

Michael Weinreb said...

I did not see the Pitt-Butler game; I only watched the highlights. And so I found it strange that people seemed to be making as big a deal about some dude talking to some other dude before he steps to the free-throw line as they were about a couple of controversial foul calls.

Though I have to admit, I kind of thought the opposite was true--that people were complaining that trash talk would have the effect of rattling the shooter, in which case it would somehow be unfair. It's interesting you (and others) presumed it was the other way around. I guess, in the end, everything tends to congeal around the results.