- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

Let me be the first to thank Bob Knight.

For those of you who missed the news on Tuesday — which is to say, everyone who was busy examining Janet Jackson’s starfish pastie the way the CIA pours over satellite photos of North Korea — the Texas Tech basketball coach got into a row with university chancellor David Smith, who happens to be his boss.

According to reports, the ruckus took place at an understandably upsetting location, the salad bar of an upscale grocery story. Smith approached Knight and complimented the coach on his good behavior as of late; Knight, who hasn’t cursed out an ESPN interviewer in nearly two months, took offense to Smith’s use of the term “lately.” A plum tomato in one hand and a baby carrot in the other, Knight shouted at Smith, later half-apologized for his behavior and received nothing more than a reprimand from the school.

OK, so maybe I’m making the baby carrot and plum tomato part up.

Still, the take-home point is this: Knight wasn’t fired on the spot. He wasn’t slapped with a lengthy, costly suspension. He didn’t even have to pay for Smith’s salad.

Now, some might deem the chancellor a sniveling wimp, another yellow-bellied academic administrator kneeling before the Zod of big-time college sports. Not me. Smith acted the way any reasonable coward would have acted when confronted with an arugula-spitting maniac; more importantly, he did the world an inadvertent favor, allowing Knight to courageously lower the bar of workplace expectations for the rest of us.

To put it another way: If you can’t get canned for inexplicably reaming out your boss over a bed of tender, leafy greens, then what can you get canned for?

The answer, of course, is nothing. Which makes Knight’s latest tirade the biggest breakthrough in labor-management relations since the Taft-Hartley Act. For far too long — like, say, eternity — we workers of the world have been forced to slavishly grovel in the presence of our superiors. We’ve grinned and nodded at hundreds of bad ideas. Endured thousands of awkward attempts at how’s-the-family? small talk. “Lost” more games of racquetball than we can possibly count. And all for the sake of staying employed, or maybe getting promoted to a job we hate a little less.

No longer.

Feeling miffed at the big guy (or gal) at the top of the company letterhead? Make like Knight: Blow off his administrative assistant. Stroll into his wood-paneled office. Spit in his latte. Curse him like a Maryland basketball fan. Unzip your pants and empty your bladder on his carpet, the better to make your point and/or mark your territory.

Oh, and don’t bother closing the door either. Instead, bring one of those cell phones with a built-in camera, so you can e-mail pictures to all your coworkers.

With the Knight Doctrine as your guide, the possibilities are endless. And endlessly delicious. The next time you’re tempted to bite your tongue at work, do the opposite. Follow the Rabbit Hunter’s feels-good, do-it example:

cFor that “generous” holiday bonus: “Frankly, it’s too small to buy a bottle of peppermint schnapps. Did you give the rest of it to your mistress?”

• For Friday’s project deadline: “Impossible, ma’am. Unless you’re planning to lace the office coffee machine with methamphetamines.”

cFor that tie: “Ugly. Like your bucktoothed wife. And your fat-faced kids. But thanks for asking.”

cFor handing Deion Sanders an $8million signing bonus: “Hey, it’s your money, moron.”

Afraid you’ll feel bad? Jerkish, even? Don’t sweat it. Like Knight, you’re doing your boss a favor, opening his eyes to the world as the little people see it.

Two decades ago, the Portland Trail Blazers had a chance to pick Michael Jordan in the NBA Draft. They took Sam Bowie. The team janitor could have told them otherwise. Sometimes — make that most of the time — the emperor needs to know about his lack of clothes. Or that those pleated olive pants look hideous.

Besides, Knight’s New Workplace Revolution is long overdue. In the rest of society, it’s de rigueur to rant, rave and tell the world how you really feel. Regardless of the world’s feelings. Think talk radio. Simon on “American Idol.” President Bush before the United Nations. Brutal honesty is in. And why not? Don Imus and his ilk are rich. “Idol” is a smash. Bush’s campaign war chest dwarfs those of his Democratic rivals. Mouthing off pays.

Speaking of money: Ours is an era of economic uncertainty. The dot-com boom is a fading memory. Gone are the days of lavish signing bonuses and IPO cash outs. Workplace insecurity reigns. Politicians talk about tackling the problem — but only Knight is doing something about it. One ill-advised jeremiad at a time.

As such, the General deserves our support. And our gratitude. With each unpunished philippic, each half-chewed celery stick, he’s cracking open the door of workplace insubordination. It’s our role to kick it down, SWAT-team style. So let’s get started. After all, Knight still has a job. What’s the worst that could happen to the rest of us

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