Sports are getting too soft for me

Sports are getting too soft for me
November 17
13:44 2021

We have truly entered into a place in sports where I never thought we would be. We are lost and if we don’t turn it around now, we may never have the opportunity to come back from it. I know you may be asking “Now what has him stirred up?” Well, I am going to tell you. And just to warn you, this column is an all-out rant about how soft we have become.

Recently Jimmy Lake, head coach of the Washington Huskies football team, was suspended for a game for an interaction he had with one of his players on the sideline during a game. I know you may be assuming that the interaction between player and coach had to be extreme for the coach to be suspended for a game; you’d be wrong.

In a nutshell, what happened during the exchange was Husky linebacker and special teams player Ruperake Fuavai had engaged in a back-and-forth with an Oregon Duck player after a play. Lake was seen running down the sideline to reach Fuavai. Once Lake reached Fuavai, he appeared to shove his player away from the incident and slap him on the helmet with a play sheet.

Literally, that was it, and for that Lake was suspended for a game. When I saw the news, which I heard prior to seeing the video, I thought the coach had stepped way over the line by smacking the kid or even ripping off the kid’s helmet; just something more than what I saw on the video. For me, that was a normal interaction between a coach and a player in the heat of the moment, but school administrators did not feel the same.

“Our staff has spent the last 24-plus hours reviewing video of the incident, as well as speaking with Coach Lake, the involved student-athlete, and several other student-athletes and members of the staff, and I have made the decision to suspend Coach Lake for next Saturday’s game against Arizona State,” Washington Athletics Director Jen Cohen said in a statement.

The school stated that they did not find that Lake’s “actions were intentional or deliberate.” Cohen said, “We can have no tolerance for a coach interacting with a student in the manner Coach Lake did. We have high expectations of conduct for our coaches and we will not shy away from those expectations.”

Forgive me for laughing. So, they spoke with everyone involved in the situation and this was the result? I wonder what was said by the player involved, the coaching staff, and other players on the team in those meetings. I know they could not have said that Lake overstepped any boundaries by lightly pushing and hitting him in the helmet with a play sheet.

I never played football in college, but I did play in high school. I could vividly remember situations where the coach had to get in my face or other players’ faces to get our attention or correct inappropriate behavior. Do they realize that football is an intense and adrenaline-filled sport? I felt Coach Lake showed an appropriate level of aggression to get his player in line.

When asked about the situation, Lake said his goal was to “separate them and push them back.” He released a statement on Twitter apologizing for the situation and affirming the university’s decision to suspend him.

“I want to apologize to every member of our team and in particular to Ruperake Fuavai for my actions during our game on Saturday,” Lake said. “I also want to apologize to President Cauce and Jen Cohen for putting the university in this position. I fully accept the decision that was made. Our team has a right to expect better than what I displayed on Saturday, and I’m committed to doing just that – being better so our program will reflect all that’s good about being a Washington Husky.”

If that wasn’t a PR-driven statement, I don’t know what is. There is no way on God’s green earth that Lake can believe what he said in that statement. I have seen more aggressive behavior by a coach to a player on the Pop Warner level. I mean seriously, what has the world come to.? So now a coach can’t use any sort of force to get his player under control? 

I recently saw a video of former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, who is the head coach of Lipscomb Academy’s football team, pushing, grabbing and yelling at one of his players. I saw he received some backlash, but he was not suspended after issuing an apology. And by the way, I don’t feel what Dilfer did was wrong either.

I didn’t feel Lake was out of control or went beyond what was necessary at the moment. The kid was jawing back and forth with an opponent, which could have easily drawn a flag on the play, and Lake stepped in to correct the behavior. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a part of coaching. I guarantee that player will never forget that interaction with his coach and hopefully it prevents him from doing something similar in the future.

This is why I can’t stand people who have never played sports making decisions about sports. There is no way anyone can understand the brotherhood a football team has if they have never been in the locker room. Sometimes things get heated in practice and in the game and it takes a coach to sometimes snap a player back to where he needs to be.

I don’t know if this was a deliberate move to kind of explain a coaching change that seems inevitable by season’s end. The writing is on the wall after this last situation, unfortunately. I really do think this is a move to help justify Lake’s firing at the end of the year.

Maybe I’m too old school, but I don’t think there was anything wrong with what Lake or Dilfer did to their players. When you are in the heat of the moment as a player, sometimes you can’t hear the words of a coach and need to be redirected with physical contact. Neither player was hurt, and it will benefit them in the end.

What people fail to realize is that many of the lessons former football players learn on the field can also translate to other aspects of life. Playing football helped me learn to be a team player, to sacrifice for others, dedication, responsibility, and above all else, respect authority. And when a coach needed to address me in a similar manner as Lake did his, my only response was “Yes. sir.”  

I hope this is not the new trend in football. Coaches need to be able to coach. Stop being so soft and let these young men be coached up and be better men on and off the field.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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