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Excitement of games diminished by lack of team play

April 08, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

Dr. Frankenstein, I presume.

Somewhere, someone - anyone - has to start feeling like the fabled scientist did the day after his creation came to life.

The idea of sports is becoming an unruly monster. American culture created it. The media has jolted it into something bigger than life. And popularity, demand and financial rewards have turned our pleasant pastimes into something with a life of its own that has no bounds or conscience.

AHHHHH. It lives.

Sports have become a forum where the inmates run the asylum.

Games used to be a thing of fun and beauty, where team play and precision provided memorable moments. The NCAA Tournament's memorable moments all have someone hitting the winning shot after a great pass, for example.

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Now games are a forum where selfishness and self-centered interest have diluted many of the favorable qualities.

It all came to mind last week when North Carolina's basketball coach Matt Doherty resigned.

Sure, North Carolina may have needed a change to revive one of the most storied programs of our time. But the reasoning was wrong.

Doherty did not lose/quit his job solely on the merit of his performance and win-loss record. Instead, his employment was scuttled because the players didn't want to play for him anymore.

After accepting a scholarship, the players and some of their parents declared Doherty's style and approach not to their liking. Players threatened to transfer while parents questioned the coach's tactics - probably the same ones that made Doherty a success when he played for the Tar Heels under Dean Smith.

After Doherty fell on his sword, Davidson coach Bob McKillop, Doherty's former high school coach who provided his first break in college coaching, made the following observation:

"Clearly, players are different than they were 10, 15, 20 years ago. Players are refusing to go into games in the NBA, players don't show up for practice. The players have set the tone at the highest level of the game and then it filters down ...

"Kids are being taught early that commitment and loyalty are not qualities that will pay material dividends."

We have created a monster.

The relentless coverage and broadcasts of games have turned sports into a selfish exhibit of one-upmanship.

Kids see dunks and 3-point shots, touchdown runs and end zone celebrations, home runs and rolling, diving catches where players get up thumping their chests begging for recognition.

Toby Keith should be chiming in with a chorus of "I Wanna Talk About Me" about now.

That "trickle down" has turned coaches - specifically on the high school level - into an endangered species.

Few are able to teach fundamentals and team concepts in a sports world where looking good is better than being good.

That seems to be the message when a highly talented high school player earns national cable coverage and a pay-per-view deal.

Athletes that good are rare. The truth is very few can dominate a game and/or single-handedly carry a team to a championship.

Many find out the hard way that it takes a team to be ultimately successful. Face it, Shaquille O'Neal was just a large, ringless individual until he met Phil Jackson's team concept. And how many Duke players excel after leaving Coach K's philosophy?

Players play and coaches organize. It's been that way for years and it will stay that way for successful teams. Players' egos are ruining the games for all.

One of my colleagues often asks whether I'm excited about covering this game or that event and can't figure out when I don't respond breathlessly.

It's because individualism in team sports is starting to bore me.

Maybe it's because, thanks to today's trends, there is nothing unique about it.

I've seen the monster before ... on TV, where horror, fantasy and Frankenstein are all on at midnight and are the rule instead of the exception anymore.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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