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Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Bad Coach

When you are growing up there is only one adult that commands your respect. The Coach. For young males the coach is next to God, if not God himself. My first coach was a tough Irishman named McCulley who made us wrestle at practice until we couldn't stand. He took nothing. He would slap a boy who talked back and didn't mind throwing you down on the mat if you annoyed him. But he was respected and we won meets and we all knew where we stood with the coach.

So you can only imagine what went on at Penn State. How Sandusky got a ten year old boy into the shower and then did what he did. But I think back on my other coaches, like,  Coach Grady a huge sweating Russian who coached us in Junior High. We wrestled him and we took showers with him and nobody gave it a thought. We were always together in the locker room and Coach really enjoyed working out with us and I remember to this day how he covered the matt with adult sweat.

And then football comes along and The Coach becomes someone with even more authority. There is no one more powerful in high school than the football coach. You had your teachers but ultimate authority rested with the football coach. Coach Trosen at my highshool was an ex Marine with horn rimmed glasses on a strap. He had an explosive temper and he was big. You did not cross him. But he won games and somehow always got you to play your best.

But he ruled absolutely and no one questioned his judgement on anything. That is why a guy like Sandusky was so dangerous. To American males the coach is infallible, a master judge of the human condition and yet someone beyond the realm of human failings. The coach is a judge jury and executioner. And Coach Paterno should have known that just kicking Sandusky up to the Athletic office was not enough when he was caught in the showers the first time with a ten year old boy.

He should have banished him to Siberia. A cold and dark place where all bad coaches go who betray their boys. He should have screamed from the hilltops he had a bad coach and warned all those males who had no idea who they were dealing with. He should have called the police.  That's what you do with a Bad Coach.

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Books by William Hazelgrove