Football Fracas as MetaphorPosted: October 27, 2011
On October 16, Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, strode mid-field to shake the hand of Jim Schwartz, head coach of the Detroit Lions, after a very close game in which the 49ers finished victorious. After a vigorous hand shake, Jim Harbaugh slapped Schwartz’s back in a very dismissive manner. Jim Schwartz did not take kindly to ‘being dissed’ and went running after him. It didn’t take long for the controversy to swirl; Fox’s OT show and Football Night in America both discussed it later that day. And there were a ton of blog posts and articles about it the next day and all through the week.
The next day I tweeted, “What part do decorum & respect play in leadership? If it’s OK for coaches to fight on field, OK for politicians to make another a bullseye?” To which @bball28 replied, “I think it was uncalled for, but I don’t normally compare football coaches to leaders of country..” Tweet reply, “Leadership is leadership. Agree scope & influence different; point was diminishing: business, politics, sports.”
Last Sunday, the Fox Sports pre-game show stated the NFL had decided not to fine either coach. That surprised me. But what didn’t surprise me was the story that came after of how Rex Ryan, NY Jets coach, then called out Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers coach, that week saying, “If I’d been hired as coach in San Diego, I’d have two rings by now!” Forcing Norv to defend himself with, “Where’s your hardware Rex?” Jimmy Johnson, former Cowboys coach, said on the show, “Whatever happened to the respect shown to the coaches’ fraternity?” I agree with Jimmy, and think it’s representative of a larger issue. But there have been many blog posts whose message was: “What’s the big deal? It’s a game of emotion. Boys will be boys. Let’s move on.”
It’s hard to use the Internet these days without seeing news articles of craziness in high schools across the country, both on the sports field and between teachers and students, parents abusing/neglecting/killing their kids, the abysmal state of the working class, and politicians insulting or targeting each other (one even used a bullseye to target others last year). It’s not only indicative of a complete lack of respect, but it shows a real dearth of understanding about what it means to be a role model in any leadership position; teacher, NFL coach, business owner or political leader. We’ve seen so many people fall from grace in the past decade – from businessmen who’ve embezzled millions (in some cases ripping off the pensions of thirty year employees), corrupt politicians, beloved sports figures … it’s easy to list names like Madoff or Weiner (you can probably think of many more) and you instantly know what I’m talking about.
If twenty years is one generation, then it was only three generations ago that most men became adults by enlisting in the military. What was taught there? Discipline, duty, respect and teamwork among other things. Sports have always espoused the same intentions; to build character, instill discipline, foster teamwork and teach respect for self and others.
So is this it? Is this our new America? For the 9 yr old kid who loves football and watches his team play every Sunday, should he expect to see coaches fighting on the field? Is that what he should expect to happen when he plays in HS or college? Is that what he should do? Why wait? Might as well start bullying people in middle school.
Some may say these topics are unrelated. I believe each microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm. Can you recall a situation in business, a school, a sports team or politics where someone in a leadership position behaved illegally, immorally, unethically or in some other way unfitting of a leader in the past year? The past six months? The past month?
Without sounding way too (insert your adjective of choice here), it seems our country is having a real crisis of character, discipline, ethics, respect and leadership at all levels: business, politics, schools and sports.
So for me, this incident reflects a lot more than just “a game of emotion.” What do you think? Am I ‘just being a hypersensitive female’ (hackle raising intended) who doesn’t understand football?