- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2000

my friend Bob Knight, was snagged from the sunny world of college sports to replace natural disaster, crime, and upheaval on the front pages of the nation's most prestigious newspapers, at least for a day?

Before this past week, Mr. Knight was known only to those who follow sports and to those who hate sports. Yet after a trickle of news reports in recent months relating a university inquiry into complaints about Mr. Knight's rebarbative temper all dated and some disputable university officials suddenly announced that their judgment of his fate was at hand. Throughout the media the Bob Knight Story elbowed aside genocide in Africa, high politics in China and Russia.

Then came the pontifications from the sports columnists. Television, most notably ESPN, aired spine-tingling scene after spine-tingling scene of Mr. Knight going ballistic does the man never sleep? Then he was gone. The American media returned to its usual fare: the soap opera that is the New York senatorial race, the president with his dog or at a funeral, Ted Turner giving an old pair of socks to the Smithsonian in other words, stories sparked by some notables' press releases. These are the infantile products produced by an industry whose professionals take themselves more seriously than the professionals of almost any other sector of commerce, more seriously than family therapists, more seriously than lingerie models.

A 3-year-old complaint by a former basketball player of minor importance against Mr. Knight, one of basketball's leading coaches, enflamed the Politically Correct patrols at Indiana. The patrollers were for the most part intellectuals of modest scholarly attainments. Their contributions to the university are interchangeable with those made by mediocrities at dozens of other cow colleges throughout the country though one would hope to find sweeter dispositions even within the run-of-the-mill professoriate. An irony of the Knight brouhaha is that his irascibility is condemned as unconscionable while his pursuers' irascibility is perceived as conscience at work.

These angry goody-goodies say is no place on campus or in our society for public displays of anger. In this I am with them, though unlike them I cannot expect perfection in my fellow Americans. If they took learning seriously, they might recognize mankind's imperfections. As with their campaigns against sexual indiscretions, the Politically Correct patrollers' campaigns against anger might not be so unfair and so hypocritical if they were to reflect on the moral anarchy around them. Anger and conflict are the staples of television entertainment, television talk shows, and even the Politically Correct's own worldview. How many times have they approved "rage" exhibited by their approved groups: the feminists, the militant homosexuals, militant minorities?

Anger and, incidentally, adolescent displays of libido, are rampant in our entertainments and in society at large, though they attract no indignation save for a few shrieks from "the Christian right." Yet when the Politically Correct's soi-disant sophisticates spot anger or sexual indiscretions in sports, business or any of the other human pursuits that rouse their disapproval, all hell breaks loose. A Bob Knight becomes a man without a country.

That his former players admire him and credit him with their uncommon success after sport had no effect on the chorus roaring against Mr. Knight. That his present players did not want to lose him mattered not at all. Even the university's effort to suppress his displays of temper only exacerbated the outrage of Mr. Knight's critics, many of whom have no stake in Indiana University; and, by the way, not much interest in or knowledge of sport.

A surprise for me was the large number of sportswriters who write with so little knowledge of sport. I rarely read the sportswriters. As I spend an hour or two a day playing handball and training to compete, I make little economies in my schedule. Giving the sports pages only a brief glance is one of them. But in reading the sportswriters' hyperbole on Mr. Knight I was amazed at how few of them know much. Of course the civilized few do, and most of them showed admirable independence in commenting on Mr. Knight while deploring his temper. The Washington Post's Tony Kornheiser was notably reasonable and knowledgeable.

Remarking on the only recent complaint against Mr. Knight an alleged choking incident that took place in 1997 Mr. Kornheiser wrote, "Worse abuses than that happen every day at 10,000 high schools during football practice." He went on to note that many players expect their coaches to yell. Yet for every Mr. Kornheiser there were scores of doltish sports columnists pontificating. My favorite was the dope who wrote that coaches like Mr. Knight yell at athletes to instill "fear." You idiot. They yell to raise the athlete's intensity. They want the athlete to execute smartly, intelligently, with power and speed. The last time I talked to Bob Knight about handball, he went into a lecture about the need to keep your hands up. He stood up. He became animated. He raised his voice. He made his point. I was ready to play. Next season he will be too.



R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the editor in chief of the American Spectator.

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