On Bob Knight, or Its a Sin to Kill a Knightengale
I used to view Bob Knight largely through these lenses that you have presented on a recent thread. You showed him throwing a chair. You alluded to his fury. It all called up my recollections of his apparent vulgarity, aggressiveness and cruelty to players and reporters.
I still think he was and remains an intimidating jerk, and I would not want a child of mine to play for him, but…
When I began my nearly decade long inquiry into how D1 basketball worked, what I found again and again was Bob Knight sticking his neck way out and opposing all the forces that have apparently converge to compromise the game into the state that it appears to be in today where it appears to be dominated by both an apparent petroshoeco-agency complex and an apparent media-gaming complex, and appears to operate with a time zone and brand driven recruiting system, and has the appearance of a media being used to shape bettor expectations for big gaming, and has an an NCAA apparently admitting it lacks the resources to adequately police and enforce its own rules, despite staging a tournament that makes hundreds or thousands of millions of dollars, and an NCAA staging what appears to be a March Carney apparently riddled with what appears to be seeding engineering and referee engineering.
Call me a bleeding heart, but if Bob Knight were brave enough to stand up to those that have done what has apparently been done to college basketball, he deserves a ton of respect from all of us for doing so.
And when I put myself in Bob Knight’s shoes, and walk around in them metaphorically, as Atticus Finch used to recommend to Jem and Scout that it was right to do, here is what I take away and want to go tell Miss Maudie across the street.
Bob Knight may indeed be a scary looking old Boo Radley with an anger management problem. And he may have acted badly at times, Mr. Finchbate 1.0, but, well, Mr. Finchbate 1.0, that white trash Bob Ewell in the petroshoeco jacket and wearing the media hat and shilling for big gaming, Mr. Finchbate 1.0, that white trash Bob Ewell is really the one that threatened your little Scout and all of the little Scouts that come into college basketball as recruits thinking they are going to make it in the NBA and mostly don’t.
I know. I know.
For a long while, like Atticus Finch, I stood around wringing my hands at my keyboard and wiping the back of my neck with a white handkerchief at what was right and wrong, when it came to assessing the antics and vulgarities and cruelties and character and career of Mr. Bob Knight, sirs and ladies.
But then, well, then Sheriff Heck Tate he looked me in the eye, like I was just not thinkin’ straight at all.
“Mr. Finchbate 1.0, you don’t think it was your son Jem that tried to kill that white trash Bob Ewell in the woods tonight, do you? It wasn’t Jem, Mr. Finchbate 1.0. He didn’t stick a knife into the rib cage of Bob Ewell and try to kill him to keep him from preying on high school phenoms and young freshman basketball recruits. He didn’t recruit players with prostitutes. He didn’t make deals to have dump trucks come to Indiana, or to Texas Tech neither, as far as I can tell. Jem didn’t make March Madness look like the March Carney, Mr. Finchbate 1.0. It was Mr. Bob Ewell that done that. And it was Mr. Arthur “Boo” Knight that stuck that knife into Bob Ewell. It was Mr. Arthur Knight that tried to save your children and all the other children that was being and are now still being preyed on by that white trash Mr. Bob Ewell, who survived the stabbing and has lived on more like Dracula than Bob Ewell.”
“I, I, I, what are you saying, Heck. I, , I,…” I was flummoxed. “Well, then Heck, I will have to defend Arthur myself…I , I will defend him…”
“Mr. Finchbate 1.0, if you try to defend Arthur “Boo” Knight in a court of public opinion in this basketball world, it will expose him and he will have to testify and likely as not they will convict him instead of blaming that white trash Mr. Bob Ewell for what has been done to college basketball.”
“Well, well, Heck, I, I, I,have to do something.”
“Mr. Finchbate 1.0, it would be a sin to bring Arthur Knight into a court of public opinion, a sin, sir. And it is a sin to kill a Knightengale, Mr. Finchbate 1.0, a sin.” Heck looked off the porch into the night a moment and then back. “I say that white trash Mr. Bob Ewell out their choking on his own blood and saliva from all the highschool and college kids lives he has gotten away with messing with, I say leave him out there. I say Bob Ewell attacked your children and he was so drunk with exploiting them that he finally just fell on his own knife. I say, let the dead bury the dead, Mr. Finchbate 1.0.”
Bob Knight came into college basketball from being a second stringer career on a great Ohio State team learning the game under Fred Taylor and then with a fire in his belly about as hot as a thermo nuclear bomb went to Army to become a head coach at an incredibly young age and then was so successful that he got the Indiana job, cleaned it up and made it the most feared basketball program in the country once John Wooden stepped aside just a few years after Knight’s feisty bravado made him a minor celebrity and enfant terrible, as well as a successful college basketball coach.
And when he was still very young, though with an NC under his belt, he saw just how deeply corrupt the college game was at the time, how much players were paid to play, and how many of the coaches were as engaged in the corruption as the players were. Bob Knight appeared to love the game of college basketball as much as any human being ever did. And he appeared a natural born strategist who could see long before the rest of us what was going to happen to a small time college game with deep good old boy legacy corruption–one that was still new to the TELEVISION ERA, well, he saw how the big media boys and the big gaming boys and the soon to be huge petroshoeco boys and the agents were going to converge on the greatest game ever invented like great birds of prey and pick it up by their talons and black mail it into submission with the legacy good old boy corruption that haunted it.
Bob Knight appeared to look around at all his coaching colleagues that he had admired and respected and he probably said something like we have to stop this, something like we have to do something NOW, or it will be too late!
And Bob Knight learned that most all of his heroes had feet of clay when it came to taking on these kinds of opponents. They all probably hung their heads ashamed and said, “we’re too close to retirement and we’ve never made any FU money out of the game, like Dean has down at UNC, Inc. with his deal with Sonny and so on. We’re just a bunch of old aging jocks that have been lucky as hell just to have jobs and houses. Most of us came from blue collar back grounds. Most of us are the first kids to ever get college degrees in our families. We know what happened to Claire Bee, when he tried to come clean. They threw him under the bus along with all the other small fry. Our little pension is all we’ve got Bob. We can’t do it. We’ve all got little skeletons in our closets. But you? you’re young and you’ve already made a bundle and you’ve played it straight and won. You could do it, Bobby.”
And so Bob Knight must have walked around in a disillusioned daze for quite a while until finally he looked in the mirror one morning and said he could not live with himself if he just did nothing, just went along.
And so he appeared to try to expose all the reporters swapping PR for access, and looking the other way at corruption, all the shyster coaches cheating at recruiting and paying players, all the dishonest refs…
He took them all on at once.
And the blow back was apparently worse than even he ever dreamed it would be. The press hounded him to death. Coaching colleagues apparently turned pale yellow and didn’t back him even when they could have without immediate retribution. They apparently even used it on him in recruiting.
And before long Bob Knight must have known he was ALL ALONE.
AND HE WAS STILL YOUNG AND HE HAD A FAMILY.
AND “THEY” WERE OUT TO GET HIM, or so it appeared.
All of the above is speculation of course.
Who can say how it really was?
But that’s how it looked over the years, especially once I began reading what I could to find out what was supposedly really going on in college basketball.
All I as a fan can do is step inside his shoes and walk around in them figuratively, if you recall what I mean.
All I can do is imagine what it must have been like to be the greatest coach of his generation and likely to be one of the greatest of all time and be still young and to know that he had crossed a line that he could never get back across; that he would never be able to stop the media from trying to smear him beyond reclamation, because if they failed, and what all he had exposed stood unimpeached, it implied just how complicit in what was being done to college basketball the reporters were.
So he appeared to fight them.
He apparently fought them like some Jeremiah Johnson with a whistle and tennis shoes.
He fought the refs.
He fought the reporters.
He fought the coaches.
He fought the shoewhores.
He fought the paying of players.
And they just kept coming and coming.
He fought with them in Puerto Rico.
He fought with them in the Olympics.
He made the players go to class and exposed the coaches that didn’t make them go to class.
He reputedly ran the players that would drag down his team GPA that weren’t essential to the rotation.
He fought like a man who intended to take as many down with him as he could.
He was young!
He had some grey, some early grey.
But career wise, he was still young!!!
Does anyone else remember what it was like to be 40 and incensed by the corruption in one’s profession?
How disillusioning it was?
How scary it was to speak out?
How scary it was to take on the powers that were and would be for a long time to come.
Bob Knight, however imperfect he was, and he was apparently very imperfect, stood up for college basketball.
Bob Knight apparently went to the wall for college basketball.
Bob Knight reputedly hurt a lot of his own kids himself trying to push himself and his teams to prove that good could beat evil, even when evil got the dump trucks of players.
Bob Knight apparently took the forces of darkness in the game head on.
In the end they used his own flaws to get him.
That is how they always get the good guys. Even the best good guys have flaws. Weaknesses.
And Knight apparently had more than his share of flaws.
But man did he expose a lot of the scum bags.
No one could look around college basketball and not recognize them after Bob Knight got done.
After the human tornado that was Bob Knight ripped through Indiana, then Texas Tech and then broadcasting, no college basketball fan in the country had any excuse for saying they didn’t know what was being done to college basketball and by whom.
After Bob Knight, all a fan could do was say, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
He shamed us all.
And we needed it.
And there was something doubly shaming about being shamed by someone with as many flaws as Bob Knight had. Wily devil that he was he probably understood that too.
Bob Knight seemed to be saying to us all, if even a jerk like me can see what’s being done to the game and can take these sunnsabitches head on, none of you people out there, not one chancellor, not one AD, not one faculty, not one parent of a player, not one alumni, not one fan, not even one reporter has an excuse not to, too.
In the final analysis, Bob Knight lost his quest to be free of those that were apparently defiling the game of college basketball, same as Spartacus lost his quest to escape those that defiled Rome and enslaved him.
Spartacus, according to movie legend, had a son born free.
Bob Knight’s son Pat got crushed, too.
But anyone that chooses to remember, rather than chooses to live in denial, knows what Bob Knight, as flawed as he apparently was, tried to do for the game.
And those of us that took the time to learn about it, even though they disliked how he treated his players, and those of us that tell it to others, and that continue to tell others about it, will never forget.
Even if it takes 2000 years to fix this too.
Rock Chalk, Bob Knight.
(Note: all opining and speculation on this fan’s part.)
@jaybate-1.0 Harper Lee is proud of you. Al McGuire was very similar to Knight. The same fire and contempt for the system. In his short time as an announcer I learned more about Basketball, Like I did from Bobby. I hated Mushburger and he being paired for such a long time in the Big 12 but I did learn about how there were so many players who didn’t have a shot fake, or like McGuire, “The shot clock is your friend.” I’ve had coaches like Bobby and I hated them, I’ve had coaches like Self who can cuss with the best of them, but never ended a practice without becoming a human again. If you recruit someone who functions well with your coaching demeanor, you will be successful.
Mr. Atticus Finch, Jeremiah Johnson and Coach Bob Knight. YEE-ha! Jaybate, you set my molars to grinding about a current pet peeve: insidious university boards of regents and their upper echelon hirelings who sell out for the sake of false glory, overlooking undignified travesty within their reach, bringing to lowly heel fabulous athletic programs for which rabid fans are more than eager to be hoodwinked and beguiled. The Baylors and Penn States and North Carolinas and Louisvilles and SMUs of the past two decades…and a host of other sites less visible or not yet exposed as cesspools detrimental to collegiate sport.
I did the best I could, coach.
@jaybate-1.0 Aw, I know you did. Just don’t ever forget that this godforsaken Baylor Bear athletic program should be banished from our league! Hang em out as an independent, too scurrilous for acceptance into any honorable conference. I am not certain that North Carolina should not hang with them. Although NC’s problems are more of an academic situation, something the NCAA has pretty much, at least in practice, given up on in terms of adjudication. Chapel Hill would appear to be a safer site for co-eds than Waco.
Two words: Ken Starr.
@jaybate-1.0 He’ll probably be nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court…and clear the appointment by an overwhelming landslide.