Bill Plaschke Gives 110%

Okay, this is the start of what I hope will be a regular feature here at DHST, where I follow in the hallowed tradition of Fire Joe Morgan and take on the worst of sports commentary.  The idea is to take a look at the horrible crap that passes for sports journalism these days and rip it to shreds.  I find a strong parallel between the flaws and weaknesses of modern sports journalism and the flaws and weaknesses of modern political journalism and I think that Dirty Hippies should do their best to fight bad journalism no matter where they find it.  Today we find it in the latest column from Bill Plaschke, titled “Character is tripping up coaches.”  Let’s jump right in:

Cheating has switched positions: it’s no longer a player following his worst instinct but a player following a direct order. And cheating bosses don’t get pink slips, they get mea culpas.

Pretty bold claims there in the subtitle, we’ll see if Plaschke backs them up with strong evidence. And in a world with Rae Carruth, O.J. Simpson, Ray Lewis, Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre, I’m pretty sure that cheating is not the worst instinct that players have.

In New York, it isn’t just about a wandering knee, it’s about a lost soul.

Wait, tripping a player means you have a lost soul?

In Berkeley, it isn’t about fake injuries, it’s about fraudulent leadership.

Okay, I buy that one.

In Denver, the spy didn’t only reveal an opponent’s schemes, but his own team’s integrity.

Again, a very strong claim, let’s see if it’s backed up.

Remember the good old days when the cheaters were the players? Poor desperate jocks trying to gain an advantage in the heat of the moment? Blatantly wrong, but easily understandable because it was so darn human?

The good old days? So players cheating was a good thing? And, if I’m not mistaken, coaches have been cheating for as long as sports have existed, right? Ask Bill Belichick. Or Maury Wills, suspended as manager of the Mariners in 1981 for cheating. Or the 1951 Giants, who admitted to stealing signs during the year of the famous “Shot Heard Round the World.” Or the SMU football program of the 1980s. Or UF coach Charley Pell’s 107 NCAA violations. I could go on and on, lets just say that cheating coaches is absolutely not something new in sports, despite Plaschke’s apparent belief that they are.

Crimes have changed. Cheating has switched positions. Cheating now wears a headset and blows a whistle. Cheating is now scrawled in playbooks and sounded in pep talks and taught like technique. Cheating is no longer a player following his worst instincts, but a player following a direct order.

I’ve already asked for evidence on this several times and Plaschke just keeps repeating the charges, albiet in increasingly more creative ways.

The cheaters are now the coaches, and if you don’t think that’s scary, then you didn’t see that sprinting Miami Dolphins player being tripped into the air by some fool standing next to the field in a New York Jets sweatsuit.

I actually did see that and I didn’t find it scary at all. In fact, I thought it was quite funny. I figured the coach who did it should’ve been penalized. He was. And since the Dolphins won the game, that should pretty much be the end of it.

Cheating is like that now. It’s sideline. It’s scary. It comes out of nowhere and everywhere and the only thing certain is, it starts at the top.

Cheating was always like that. At least as far back as 1995:

Either way, it’s still not scary. It takes more than just saying “scary” multiple times to make something actually scary. And cheating always seems to come out of nowhere, you never expect cheating. How is it possibly the case, by the way, that we are “certain” that the “new” cheating starts at the top. I’m sure Plaschke will eventually get to the evidence for some of these statements.

“The whole thing is somewhat like the mafia now,” said ethicist Michael Josephson, a former law professor who is president of the national Character Counts coalition, and he’s right.

Ah, we finally gets to an expert. I fully expect Josephson to explain his mafia comment in the next sentence.

Recent events show a nastiness in sports that begins with the bosses and trickles down to the henchman and winds up in the bloody death of sportsmanship.

Nope, no explanation at all. Just Plaschke saying, inexplicably, that Josephson is right and then taking the mafia metaphor further, with no actually explanation of how cheating in sports is like the mafia. And since sportsmanship is now officially dead, according to Plaschke, I’m guessing we’ll see coaches tripping players in every game.

Take the case of Sal Alosi. On Sunday, while standing on the sidelines in his role as the Jets strength and conditioning coach, he stuck out his knee and tripped the Dolphins’ Nolan Carroll as Carroll raced upfield to cover a punt.
After the incident was caught on film, Alosi tearfully apologized while being suspended for the rest of the season and fined $25,000. Then he stuck his knee into common sense by saying he acted alone.

Plaschke is doing pretty good here right up to the $25,000 point. Then Plaschke stuck his knee into one of the worst metaphors ever. I assume Plaschke acted alone.

Right. Assistant coaches, especially low-level ones, don’t act alone. Assistant coaches such as that don’t simply order players to form a sideline wall to impede opponents racing down the field.

How do we know this? We know that head coaches sometimes fire assistant coaches, right? And we know that this happens on teams that perform well sometimes, as well. If assistant coaches never act alone, why would they get fired from teams that do well?

Rex Ryan, the Jets’ popular head coach, said he knew nothing. Bull. The entire Jets organization should now be branded as cheaters, which will sadly mean absolutely nothing if they end the season as winners.

So Ryan is a liar simply because Plaschke says he is. I’m glad that’s sorted out. The entire organization obviously deserves the blame, too, from the season ticket holders to the cheerleaders to the waterboy, the entire organization is guilty. I’m pretty sure that even if the Jets end up winners this year, the cheating thing will still mean something to Alosi, the actual cheater, what with the $25k he won’t have and the fact that he won’t be coaching the team if they are winners.

Then there’s the case of Tosh Lupoi. This year, the California defensive line coach admitted ordering one of his players to fake an injury to slow down the frenzied Oregon offense during the Ducks’ eventual 15-13 win.
After that incident was caught on tape, Lupoi was suspended for the final game of the season and scolded by a Cal athletic director, whose explanation was mostly gibberish.

Wait, isn’t faking injuries to slow down the clock or the other team one of the oldest tricks in the book? Is Lupoi the person to invent this? Or the only coach to do this this year? Against Oregon? I’m guessing not.

“This is a young coach who made a mistake … he stood up and he accepted responsibility for it,” said Sandy Barbour. “The head coach accepted responsibility for it and I accept responsibility for it. That’s what we do as educators.”
Um, I’m still waiting for Cal Coach Jeff Tedford to accept responsibility for an act that could not have been done without his approval. And, um, I’m still waiting for Barbour to accept responsibility by punishing Tedford for running a program that teaches kids to cheat. Have you seen that video? Aaron Tipoti, a defensive tackle, actually looks to the sidelines before grabbing his hamstring and falling to the turf.
Yeah, that’s what Cal does as educators.

Wait, this “could not have been done” without the approval of the head coach? Is Plaschke serious? So no coach ever could do anything in sports without the explicit direction of the head coach? What world does Plaschke live in where rising to head coach status gives one omnipotence?

Finally, there’s the case of Steve Scarnecchia, the Denver Broncos video guy who last month admitted taping a San Francisco 49ers’ practice. He was immediately fired, but Coach Josh McDaniel was not fired as he claimed that he never approved or saw the tape. Yeah, right. McDaniel is a Bill Belichick disciple who knows every nook and cranny of his organization. Yeah, he knew.

Based on this article, it seems Plaschke is the one who is omnipotent. He knows things for a fact that others deny and there is no possible way that Plaschke could definitively know otherwise, yet his claims are 100% definitive, allowing for no possibility that what everyone is saying in these cases is actually true. Man, I wish I had Plaschke’s powers.

Finally, last week McDaniel was fired, but sadly not so much for the video scandal but because he was a lousy football coach.

Isn’t the video scandal part of being a lousy football coach?

In sports, cheating bosses don’t get pink slips.

Except McDaniel. And Pat Dye. And Barry Switzer. And Charley Pell. Etc.

They get mea culpas and furrowed brows and eventually great applause for scrubbing their house clean of the sort of dirt that they tracked inside in the first place.

Or, it might be possible that these coaches didn’t know that people they hired would cheat and they dumped them once they found out.

Cheaters never win? When the cheater is the boss, they always win. It’s the rest of us who lose.

First off, we all know that cheaters do win sometimes, so shooting down that cliche is a bit obvious. Second, Plaschke provides no evidence of any boss doing any cheating in this article. And I’ll wager that none of these coaches “always wins.” In fact, the Jets lost the game Alosi cheated in. And Cal lost the game they cheated in. And Denver appears to be 3-10 at the moment. Seems like cheaters lose more often than they win. Maybe that’s why they are cheating? And the “rest” of us don’t lose in this situation, either. Like I said, the tripping thing was the sports highlight of the week for me. I found it quite entertaining. That’s a win for me.

“You have to start with the notion that the coach is an adult,” said Josephson. “The values they chose to follow are critical.”
When today’s sports leaders were younger, those values were dignity and integrity. But as the sports landscape became more infused with money and fame, those values changed, and, soon, if you weren’t cheating, you weren’t trying. If today’s coaches grew up hearing that motto, is it any surprise that some of them are now trying to teach it?

Ah, so now Josephson is cheating. He’s making up “facts” about “today’s sports leaders” and what they were taught when they were younger. And about how everything was better in the “good old days” and assuming that today’s coaches, who grew up in those good old days, are now teaching cheating. Josephson is making stuff up and pretending it’s expert opinion. He’s cheating.

“The message being sent today is that you do whatever you can get away it,” said Josephson. “It is a coach’s job to teach character, but that doesn’t seem to be happening as much anymore.”

The good old slippery slope. Three coaches cheat and that means character no longer exists and that you should do “whatever you can get away with,” despite no real evidence that this is happening on any widespread scale.

Famed football coaching pioneer Amos Alonzo Stagg was once asked whether a particular University of Chicago football team was his greatest.
“I won’t know for 20 years,” he said.

How is this relevant? Other than to show that Plaschke also is familiar with how great things used to be in the “good old days.”

Today, it’s all about the next 20 plays, a different era, a different dignity, a different speech.

Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s still all about championships. Belichick didn’t cheat so he could win the next 20 plays. He cheated so he could win the SuperBowl. And I’m pretty sure if you win the next 20 plays and still lose the game, you won’t have a job for very long. Take another look at that last sentence:

Today, it’s all about the next 20 plays, a different era, a different dignity, a different speech.

After the 20 plays part, this sentence doesn’t even make sense, grammatically or logically. Sure, it’s a different era. And cheating amongst both coaches and players existed in both eras. I’m not sure you can have a “different dignity,” I think what you would grammatically want to say there is “a lack of dignity.” The “different speech” part doesn’t make any sense until you read the last quote of the article:

“Rock, sometime when the team is up against it, and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Tripper.”

Get it? Plaschke knows so much about the “good old days” and how great they are that he can make a bad pun of the famous Knute Rockne speech. And although the pun is very bad and not at all humorous, at least it doesn’t make any sense. But Plaschke got to use “Tripper” in place of “Gipper” because the two rhyme. And when Plaschke gets to make puns like that, he always wins. It’s the rest of us that lose.

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  1. Posted December 21, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Unless we’re talking about a Doug Looney or Frank DeFord, isn’t “sports journalism” pretty much an oxymoron?

  2. Posted December 23, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Sure, although I’m not so sure about DeFord some of the time…

  3. Posted October 10, 2015 at 7:33 am | Permalink

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