Saturday, February 22, 2003

Texas Tech's Nick Valdez has left the basketball team, and coach Bobby Knight.

Seems he missed a team breakfast and a mandatory walkthrough, and was suspended one game for it. Since then, he hasn't attended any team meetings or practices, and I guess it's official that he's left the team.

It's coincidental, I suppose, that I'm reading John Feinstein's Season on the Brink. What I admire about the book is that while the writer seems to admire Knight in a way, he doesn't gloss over Knight's behavior. However, he does seem to try to justify it through explanation. At some point, you have to stop and say "This guy's a bit of an asshole and he's got the leeway to be such simply because he's a bigger bully and a better talker than everything."

However. I've always kind of followed Knight, if only from the perspective of a wrestling fan. He's an over-the-top personality whose emotions are easily relayed and understood by a mass audience. And I've also recognized a couple of things:

What I've learned is that he's a stickler for two things: Loyalty, and submission. And what it sounds like to me is that Mr. Valdez is a feller who wants respect before he's earned it. And if I've learned anything by reading Feinstein's work is that Knight doesn't show respect in the way the world has come to believe respect should be shown. And he doesn't at all show respect before you've earned it. And there are a lot of little things that you can do to lose that respect.

Here's what I think happened. See, Valdez' father complained to a Texas newspaper that his son was set up to miss the morning breakfast and walkthrough by not getting his customary wakeup call. Wakeup call? What kind of pampered sunofagun gets a wakeup call every morning? He can't be expected to wake up on time, on his own? He's not disciplined enough? And his father has the gall to complain about this in the public? It's Bobby Knight's fault that his boy isn't responsible enough to wake up and get where he needs to be on his own. In my mind, if you're in college, you should have the wherewithal to be able to do that on your own.

This is how my mind works: If I know what a stickler Coach Knight is for this junk, instead of waiting each morning for a wakeup call, I'd have at least one alarm clock to wake me up on my own, and probably two, just so I wouldn't have to depend on somebody else when it's my butt that's gonna be in the targets when the poopoo hits the fan.

His father says his son was set up? Guess what? He's right.

I have no doubt that because of poor play, Knight decided that Valdez shouldn't get a wake up call. Why? Maybe to be an asshole. But mostly, I'd say it's to prove a point. That he felt Valdez wasn't giving proper attention (and loyalty) to the team, and as such wasn't worthy of such attention from the team in return.

More than anything, Bobby Knight considers himself a teacher. And I'd say he was simply trying to teach Valdez something. Responsibility, perhaps? That you're as responsible for yourself as you are for the team. And Valdez proved he wasn't responsible. And he got in trouble.

And he wasn't getting the respect he deserved.

Bobby Knight's an asshole. But when he believes something, he believes it. And he believes that nobody is bigger than the team. And in this case, it sounds like Valdez made himself bigger than the team.

I'd hope I had the guts to make the call that Coach Knight did. He spited himself in the game that Valdez and his teammate Emmett missed. They lost, and in doing so put themselves on the outside edge of the NCAA tournament bubble. But in making the call, Knight felt he was teaching a bigger lesson in life.

But the pessimist in me says that Nick Valdez is to proud and stupid to learn the lesson.

I just wants my respect.



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