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Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz wasn’t too thrilled with the way his seventh ranked Cardinals team closed out a 78-72 loss to fifth ranked Maryland the other day. He thought his team lacked conviction down the stretch. Why? Because they’re soft AF and were coddled as children, of course.
He went on to rail against the participation trophy generation, presumably because he believed his team was just happy to be there, win or lose, instead of wanting to rip out Terrapin throats and then piss in the holes where their throats use to be. Standing up. BECAUSE A REAL ATHLETE DOESN’T SIT DOWN TO PEE EVER.
At least, that’s the speech I would’ve given in the time out, which, come to think of it, is probably why I received a lifetime ban from attending my sister’s high school volleyball games. “Rip out their throats and piss in their necks standing up” is not a sign they like you to hold up in an all-girls Catholic high school gym. Nor do they appreciate you accusing every opposing player of having a mustache and shooting up testosterone in locker room before the game. You know, it’s like women say they want equality, and then when you cheer on their sports like you cheer on men’s sports they’re all like, “Sir these girls are 15 and you’re clearly very drunk. Please leave.” Typical liberal hypocrisy.
Here’s the Louisville coach’s rant on participation trophies and his team’s inability to close. (Watch it on ESPN’s site if the embed doesn’t work. ESPN’s videos are kind of screwy.)
I have to say, Walz doesn’t make bad points on participation trophies in general, even if his thesis about how that concept specifically lost him this game is a stretch (it’s not like Maryland’s players aren’t of the exact same generation, just for starters). For example, he’s right that he doesn’t get to hear “good job” regardless of how much he loses. He gets his ass kicked out the door eventually. No longer will he be able to feed his family with the free Papa Johns and KFC I assume Louisville’s non-revenue sports coaches are partially paid in via special coupon stacks. And I have to imagine at a school that is as competitive as Louisville is in pretty much everything his leash is somewhat short.
I assume there will be quite a few people who will tear into Walz’s comment on “friendship brackets” at AAU tournaments being a disservice to players, because “HOW CAN PLAYING MORE MAKE YOU WORSE AT THE GAME, IDIOT! TAKE YOUR MANSPLAINING STRAIGHT TO HELL!” That’s a perfectly logical counterpoint, mostly. To that, though, I would argue that taking the urgency and high leverage situations out of games is actually a huge disservice to players. If they really do start to think, “Oh it’s fine we’ll get to play another game” then they probably do lose a competitive edge, however unquantifiable that loss of edge may be.
What do we celebrate our athletes for the most, and also deride them for the most? Being able or not being able to win the “big game” and whether or not they show up “in the big moment.” It’s literally the entire argument against the greatness of the careers of LeBron James and Peyton Manning. (Alex Rodriguez gets unfairly hammered for that too, though he obviously has other issues as well.) And it’s what Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Derek Jeter, and Michael Jordan are revered for. Coming up big in big moments. Being ruthless competitors. And that shit sticks, one way or the other. I’m pretty sure there are still lunatic haters who think LeBron is soft and scared. At this point the guy could take down the Monstars by himself, in a game to liberate trillions of aliens from Xenu’s space concentration camps and it wouldn’t matter to an unhealthy portion of Twitter.
Considering that, it would be totally disingenuous for any portion of the sport viewing public to act like depriving young athletes of high leverage games and moments doesn’t have an effect on their ability to meet our own lofty expectations down the line in college and the pros.
We don’t want our athletes to have lots of experience playing, for example, a mid-November college basketball game. We want them seasoned playing do or die, Sweet Sixteen type contests. Sure, playing more games might be better for athletes in terms of physical skill development, but I can’t imagine playing an abundance of low leverage games does much for a player mentally. At any level of sport. You can develop skills in practice. You can’t teach what it feels like to play in a nationally televised playoff game during practice, though. You can’t really learn how you’re going to feel in those moments, and how to control your emotions, in practice.
Then again, the participation trophy crowd has never been much for people learning how to “control their emotions” so they might not think much of that last point.
End of the day, this guy is right about the big picture. Too many people are rewarded for too little, or nothing at all. None of that lost him the game he’s ranting about. People just sort of tend to lose to teams ranked fifth in the country. Even the teams that are ranked seventh. It happens. But yeah, overall, existing isn’t really an accomplishment. There are 350 million people in the U.S. There are 7 billion people on Earth. The market is flooded with existence. Of course the market is also flooded with hard ass coaches who wish kids today were tough as nails and raised by wolves and willing to wrestle polar bears naked in the snow, like his generation. So he too might want to do a little more to distinguish himself..