Column: The Turkeyman - Role models, bad and good

Posted by: MBR on Mon Jan 11th, 2021 6:32 am

Column: The Turkeyman
"Role models, bad and good"

By Bob Neal

  America is nearly unique in linking sports to schools. Few other countries, for example, offer a free ride to college for the athletically gifted.

  Folks who aren`t sports fans often don`t understand the linkage, but anyone who ever attended a practice by a school sports team probably knew quickly that they were seeing some of the most intensive teaching available.

  That is the link. Teaching. 

  Every teacher has a nearly sacred duty to put the welfare of the students above all else. What did I do today to better prepare my students for life after school? Did I do anything that detracts from their preparation? 

  Those of us who follow sports sometimes may lose sight of that link. We want our team to go undefeated. We want our players to be all-stars. We want our coach to be carried on players` shoulders -- the modern version is bathed in Gatorade -- after the game.

  The obligations on any teacher include being a role model. Students follow their teachers, and teachers need to understand that their own behavior is part of their teaching.

  Too often, teachers -- and the teachers we are most interested in here are coaches -- fall down. And because of the public nature of sports, they fall down in full view.

  A list of fallen coaches could fill the rest of this column. Bobby Knight. Rick Pitino. Jerry Tarkanian. Chris Malone.

  Chris Malone?  Who dat?

  Malone was, until Thursday, an offensive line coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Offensive in two senses, apparently.

  After Democrats won both U.S. Senate races Tuesday in Georgia -- Chattanooga is on the Georgia state line -- Malone tweeted the following about Stacey Abrams, the Georgian who coordinated the effort that won both elections.

  “Congratulations to the state of GA and Fat Albert @staceyabrams because you have truly shown America the true works of cheating in an election again!!!  Enjoy the buffet Big Girl! You earned it!!! Hope the money was good, still not governor!”

  If you`ve never seen Stacey Abrams, she is a large black woman. She ran for governor in 2018, losing to Brian Kemp, who at the time was the Georgia secretary of state and had expunged the state`s voter roles of scores of thousands of voters, most of them black.

  UT Chattanooga head coach Rusty Wright said of Malone, “Our football program has a clear set of standards. Those standards include respecting others. Life is bigger than football and as leaders of young men, we have to set that example, first and foremost. With that said, effective immediately, (Malone) is no longer a part of my staff.”

  Life is bigger than football. When Patrick Mahomes hurls one 55 yards in the air and  Tyreek Hill cups it into his arms on the way to the end zone, it`s easy to forget for a moment that life is bigger than football.

  Poor teacher role models aren`t confined to coaches, of course. Just last week, the Bangor Daily News reported on a teacher suspended for a Facebook posting.

  Jonathan McBrine teaches in the career tech and history departments at WashingtonAcademy in East Machias. He posted a complaint about equity training. “. . . equity training, that’s the new code word used by Marxists brain washers (sic). You will [hear] them promote doctrine like white privilege and whiteness, making you read articles shaming people for being white.”

  McBrine ignores the reason the equity training was started at WA. Last fall, someone put a noose in the classroom of a Latino teacher. Seems pretty clear there is a problem, but McBrine didn`t seem to relate to it.

  Chris Malone and Jonathan McBrine put their political philosophies, which sound racist to this boy who grew up in segregated Missouri, above their obligations to their students.

  I have become an email friend -- what`s the term for what we used to call "pen pal?" -- with the owner of  a website for women`s basketball. When we were discussing  UMaine women`s basketball ex-coaches, I wrote her that my three measures to evaluate coaches are recruiting, player development and bench coaching. She added a fourth. Culture.

  I saw her light immediately. Creating the culture may be the most important work a coach does because it sets the tone for an entire program, and it sets the stage for the players in their lives after sports.

  Knight, Pitino and Tarkanian did not create healthy cultures. Winning cultures, yes. But perhaps at the expense of character. As I look at coaches in the future, I will look first and closest at the cultures they have built for their programs. Life is more important, and the players need to be ready for it.


  Bob Neal loves what sports, when it`s done right, does for young people. He wishes we had ways to provide similar opportunities for the kids who lack athletic skills or interest.

Posted by: MBR on Mon Jan 11th, 2021 6:40 am

pleas note: Opions expressed by writers or posters are soley theirs . and I respect everyones right to have opposing views on MBR Forums .. 

Posted by: ExpoEddie on Tue Jan 12th, 2021 12:42 pm

Thank you Turkeyman for writing such an insightful and informative piece.  What I have had to come to grips with in the last 40+ years, this country has made little progress in how we should respect the persons, not the color.

In the last 70`s Fred Howard of SP had just been released from the Chicago Whitesox major league team.  He joined the twilight League and came to pitch soon thereafter.  Great crowd with fog in the outfield.  He struck out the first 18 batters.  Throwing mid to high 90`s.  My best friend growing up at Lyman Moore and Portland High cam to the plate to open up the 7th, the only black player in the game.  On an 0-2 count, slapped a ground ball single between first and second.  Just to my right at Deering Oaks were the seniors baseball "braintrust".  All well know, all now passed, some in the hall of Fame.  One of the group of 6 states, " I can`t believe a N... broke up the no-hitter".  To this day I can picture where they were standing along the 3rd base line and think why could a then 19 year old call them out.  My other friend ralph Stowell hit the very next pitch onto the off ramp of 295, the hardest, farthest ball I have ever seen hit.  The reaction from the 6, one of amazement.  All six coached Legion and school baseball. 

Posted by: bball89 on Tue Jan 12th, 2021 7:54 pm

Well thought out thoughts put to print, Turkeyman...