In one of New York’s five boroughs, a brand new basketball coach coaching in a brand new basketball arena tries something never before seen on the sidelines, a trick straight out of a BadNews Bears movie, just to see if it would work. In Pittsburgh, a head football coach takes a page out of the Woody Hayes playbook by narrowly tight-roping the sidelines in an effort to tackle an opposing player his own players can’t seem to. And back in the good old Northeast, we hear repeated rumblings of a team illegally spying on its opponents.
If it’s one thing we can’t stand in sports, it’s cheating. We watch sports because we consider them to be the last bastion of something we can believe in. We expect our players and the teams we root for to give it their all without breaking the rules. We denigrate players for the rest of their careers when they use performance enhancing drugs to get an edge. It ruins the game, we cry. Even the mere hint of someone gambling on the sport they’re involved in is enough to warrant a life time ban. These are crimes we can’t forgive but when it comes to other forms of cheating, where do we draw the line?
On Wednesday, November 27th, Jason Kidd’s Brooklyn Nets were playing, and losing to, the Los Angeles Lakers. They’re losing is not a shock considering, at 5-12, the high-priced, underachieving Nets are one of the worst, and certainly most dysfunctional, teams in the league.
With seconds left in the game and out of time outs, Coach Kidd did two things I’ve never seen an NBA coach do on the sidelines: 1) with a full drink in his hand, he walked up to his players as they were walking off the floor and 2) “intentionally” had one his players run into him, spilling said fountain drink, so that the referees would have to call a time out to clean up the spill.
Kidd has since vehemently denied that he spilled the drink on purpose. No matter. The league fined him $50,000 for the incident. Someone should have told the rookie head coach the NBA is not going to fall for the banana in the tailpipe.
I’d like to call Kidd’s antics industrious but more than anything they demonstrate how unprepared he is to coach in this league.
Mike Tomlin has already won a Super Bowl. For a brief minute he had us all asking who Bill Cowher was. That was in 2009. In 2010, the Steelers won another AFC North division title and made it all the way back to the Super Bowl, losing to Green Bay. Since then, they’ve made it back to the playoffs only once, losing to a miraculous, last second Tim Tebow completion to Demaryius Thomas. The Steelers finished 8-8 the following year and this year, at 5-7, they’re essentially out of the playoffs once again, a far cry from Steeler standards.
Frustrations in the Steel City are mounting. That became obvious on Thanksgiving Day when Coach Tomlin tee-tottered the sidelines and allegedly interfered with Baltimore Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones. The Steelers lost that game 22-20. Tomlin has since defended himself saying he was looking at the Jumbotron which gave him a better view of the runback, as if the sidelines aren’t already the best seats in the house.
The league has yet to fine Tomlin and the Steelers but reports are that the penalty may be in the six figure range.
In 2007, the New England Patriots were found guilty of videotaping opposing coaches’ signals to get a leg up on their competition. What ultimately became known as SpyGate cost them dearly. Head coach Bill Belichick was fined a half a million dollars. The team was fined another $250,000 and they were docked a first round draft pick.
Now there are rumblings that the Patriots may be up to their same old tricks, pulling out the video camera for old time sakes.
All three of these incidents show just how far coaches and teams will go to assure victory. The days of drawing up X’s and O’s on the chalkboard are over; the days of resorting to antics like these have just begun. Fortunately, their respective leagues aren’t having it, doling out fines that would put a healthy dent into any Christmas shopping spree. But is that enough to stop coaches from doing things like this in the future?
I get it. Coaching at the highest ranks of any sport is a pressure cooker. You’re constantly looking over your shoulder, doing whatever it takes within reason, to ensure yours is not the next coaching vacancy. Just ask Will Muschamp.
But aren’t coaches still supposed to lead by example? While winning at any cost might assure one keeps their job, it still doesn’t make one a winner. In fact, it does exactly the opposite.