As a parent, we always have to be on the lookout for “teaching moments.” The sports world usually offers many such opportunities. The most recent example is the case of Charles Oakley – what he did, how he was treated and how he reacted.
If you don’t know the back story of Oakley, you’ve probably tripped up and landed on this blog by mistake but, to sum it up, Oakley was a very good NBA player for, among others, the New York Knicks. Not a superstar, a la Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson or Bernard King, but a guy who brought it every game and earned his money, something that fans appreciate.
James Dolan, Knicks owner, has seemed to have done all in his power to destroy this proud franchise, making one awful move after another. Although I’m not sure which is which, the relationship between Oakley and Dolan is like that of oil and water. The facts are a little muddled but at a recent Knicks’ contest, Oakley may or may not have been drinking, may or may not have been spewing nasty comments to his former boss but, what is known is that he was asked to leave the Garden. He did not, however, leave peacefully, rather he confronted security and got into shoving matches with those attempting to do their jobs.
Fans have been overwhelming pro-Oakley in this situation, some because they love their Oak, some because they despise Dolan, many because of both. Whichever side you belong to, one thing is necessary for this discussion. Regardless of Dolan’s ineptness or fan reaction, Oakley’s actions that night were wrong.
About a week earlier, DeMarcus Cousins got a technical foul with 1.1 seconds to go. It was his 16th of the season, meaning he was suspended for the next one (and pay a fine of $4K but that means little for a guy making so much that the suspension will cost him $154,000, or 1/82nd of his salary). The game was lost. He couldn’t control his emotions one more second? So the people who shelled out dough for the next game are deprived of catching him in action because of a hissy fit.
Fans of Cousins, e.g. those who like unstoppable low post players who can play beyond the three-point line and also protect the rim at the other end, claim referees are against the big fella. After watching Cousins pick up his 17th T, they might have a point as replays showed it was nothing more than a flop. When asked about it postgame, Cousins’ reaction was, “It’s obvious I can’t be myself. Me playing how I play is what makes me the player that I am. Obviously it’s not acceptable, so I’m trying to find a way to, you know, do what these guys are asking me to do. It’s not easy, but I’m trying to find a way.”
True to a point but the “Me playing how I play is what makes me the player that I am” comment shows the lack of maturity his critics have leveled at him since his career began. The axis of “right” goes through the top of Boogie’s head and out the other end. His world revolves around him, not unlike many folks. Whatever his beliefs, though, they don’t give him the right to be a boor.
In another basketball related incident, broadcaster Dan Dakich, known for – and proud of – his controversial commentary, stepped over the line while working the Michigan State-Ohio State game, calling the Spartans’ fans whiners and making the comment that one kid attends MSU because he couldn’t get into Michigan.
Funny line. I used to hear similar comments. When I worked at USC there would be signs at our home games against UCLA which said, “My maid went to UCLA.” Ha. Freedom of speech, right? So what’s the difference between that sign and what Dakich said? First and foremost, the signs are made by fans while he’s a professional, paid broadcaster who is on the air.
Next, Dakich’s son is a member of the Michigan basketball team (as a redshirt), making his tweet that much more inappropriate. Making the twitter war look worse for Dakich was the fact he deleted the tweet but, naturally, not until after somebody took a screen shot of it – so it lives forever. Dakich, enjoying his new career as enfant terrible, has been milking the situation, refusing any type of apology. He’s using what he created to his advantage, becoming somewhat of a role model for those who look up to him, similar to the way Jim Rome spawned a band of “shock jocks” in the sports world. It’s a way to be someone, for the first time as Rome and his minions are, or reinvent himself as Dakich, whose playing and coaching careers are over, is doing.
Not so great for parents who might have had higher hopes for their children. “Fame” is something people (not all let’s be clear) want desperately to acquire. Yet rude or barbaric behavior shouldn’t be acceptable, whether the person believes it’s necessary or that the end justifies the means.
What much of this reminds me of is the line that’s become part of our culture – and upsets me to no end:
“He was speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment.”