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Respect is a two-way boulevard

January 16, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

Despite what I jovially wrote in my last column, I am not the perfect person.

And I'm not always jovial.

I can only turn the cheek so many times before I want to lash back.

So, ever since I was treated like a piece of garbage a little over a week ago by one of our area boys basketball coaches, I've been ... thinking. It seemed to me that my next column would be the perfect way to "respond."

I have never met this man, never even laid eyes on him. And until that fateful weekend night when he phoned in his game results, I'd never spoken to him.

So, what set him off? That's a good question - one with maybe a million answers.

The first thing he told me was that his team lost, something it's done more frequently than winning this season.

Was that it? Probably part of it.

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The rest of it, it seems, is a respect issue. I guess he doesn't think he's getting enough of it because I had the nerve to ask him if his game was part of a tournament.

Seemed like a fair question to me. What? We keep tabs on more than 30 high schools, and each has a wide array of winter sports. It would be impossible for me to know exactly what every single team - boys and girls basketball, wrestling, indoor track, swimming, gymnastics and even squash - in the Tri-State is precisely doing at all times, especially when you factor in the million changes that have been caused by snow (and it was snowing that night).

I was just trying to be as accurate as possible. If it was a tournament, I needed to know. That's my job.

And that's when he rudely told me that I must be new, which he was sort of right about. I just started working here in August.

But then he corrected himself and said, "Well, it doesn't matter. None of you in there ever know a (bleepin' bleep) thing about what's going on anyway."

That's when it got personal.

It seems this man thinks he's the only game in town, like his job is my job. True, that may have been the case when he first started coaching. But I wouldn't know. I was only an infant then.

This guy kind of reminds me of the Al Pacino-played Lefty, the aging wise guy in the mob flick "Donnie Brasco."

Lefty says something like, "I'm known in four boroughs. I've got 26 hits under my belt. I never pay for drinks. I'm world famous."

This coach seems to think, "I'm known in four counties. I've got 26 titles under my belt. I never pay for drinks. I'm world famous."

To tell you the truth, I grew up less than 30 miles from this guy and never even heard of him until I started working here.

For good reason. It's high school sports. It's local, very local.

But it does matter. That's why I do what I do, and I love it. There are very few jobs this side of playing big-league baseball that I would trade for this one.

That's why I, just like everyone else who works in this department, doesn't need that kind of backlash, which I understand this coach has been giving to lots of people recently on the receiving end of his post-game calls.

You should see the reaction of some of our young, part-time stringers when the phone rings. It's like, "Please, don't let it be him. I'd like to hold onto what little self worth I have remaining since his last call."

Obviously, it's gotten out of hand, way out of hand.

If you know who I'm talking about, maybe you should go give him a big hug and tell him to be a little more kind and understanding.

Because I'm sure as heck not going to.




Andy Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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