30 December 2009

Defending the indefensible at Texas Tech

In a case that has attracted national attention, Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach has been fired for his treatment of wide receiver Adam James, son of broadcaster and former NFL player Craig James.

In facts that appear not to be disputed by anybody, James was diagnosed by the team physician with a concussion on December 16th. At practice the next day, Coach Leach required him to stand in a darkened storage shed, not allowing him to sit. Two days later, at the next practice, he required the young man to stand in a darkened closet and/or media room, again not allowing him to sit.

Initially, Leach was suspended. He appealed the suspension, and had a court hearing scheduled. Outside the doors of the hearing, Texas Tech presented him with a termination letter.

Those, as far as we know right now, are the facts.

What stuns me right now is that I have actually read commentary sympathetic towards, and defensive of, Leach. Some former players sent emails to media outlets which have been published, describing the younger James as lazy, a troublemaker, undisciplined. To that, I say, SO WHAT? What does that have to do with it? If he was a problem, cut him.

If I were Texas Tech, I would have only needed to confirm two things that were reported in the press. 1) Did the team doctor diagnose a concussion? and 2) Did Leach lock him in a darkened storage shed the next day?

If I were Leach, I wouldn't even think about offering any defense other than "one (or both) of those things did not happen."

All the stories about how lazy, selfish and undisciplined Adam James is are totally irrelevant, and saying it now sounds a lot like calling a rape victim a slut. It may be true, but it has nothing to do with the concussion and his subsequent treatment.

Pleading "he had it coming" only makes it look a lot worse. Leach's own attorney hasn't even tried to make that argument. Instead, he argues that "it wasn't a shed, it was a garage." So that makes it okay? Really?

Mike Leach may or may not have been treated unfairly by his employer. He definitely overpaid his lawyer - assuming he paid anything at all.

I often hear football players describe themselves as "warriors," and games as "battles." To a certain extent, I think the metaphor is apt. But as an Army veteran myself, I can tell you that I never locked anybody in a shed for discipline. That is not discipline, and it is certainly not leadership.

It is dehumanizing, and it is psychotic.

And people defending it should be ashamed of themselves.

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