The terribly disturbing events of the week have really gotten me thinking. A living legend, the winningest coach in the history of College Football was deservedly fired in disgrace for actions that are unconscionable. I could write far more about this incident and the troublesome future of a society that prizes winning athletic contests over the innocence of young children. This, however, is a hockey blog so I will address how this pertains to the current situation with our beloved Kings.
The pressure to win in professional and college sports is unimaginable. Whether it is universities looking to feed their hungry maws with television dollars or egotistical billionaires who need a trophy to put up on the wall, winning is everything. The person who is charged with delivering victory is the head coach. When you really sit down and think about it, this has got to be the hardest and most thankless job on the planet. As a coach, you are tasked with bringing together a collection of athletes with disparate backgrounds and forging a team. These players are paid far more than you are with guaranteed contracts that pay them no matter how they perform or even if they deign listen to you. Moreover, you have to do your job in a fishbowl where a million critics, called fanatics or fans for short, of varying levels of knowledge or lack thereof, question and double guess your every move, often with the benefit of hindsight. You have multiple bosses, owners and general managers who you need to please, and the press wants to extract its pound of flesh on a regular basis. It is no wonder professional and Division I college coaches work ungodly hours.
With the pressure to win so great, you often see what these people are made of. In the case of Joe Paterno, a man who held himself up as a paragon of virtue and honor, we see the basest side of the profession (please read the grand jury report if you doubt me). Other men such as John Wooden achieve the pinnacle of success in their profession while still maintaining their integrity. But the reality is few coaches ever enjoy this level of success and eventually experience the humiliation of being publicly fired. I, like many of our readers, have been laid off in my life, and it is not a pleasant experience. In my case, it was done privately, with no press release and no fan boards debating whether I deserved it or not. All I can say is ‘Thank God’.
I have made fun, often viciously, of Terry Murray in the past and will do so again, possibly as soon as tomorrow, in an effort to entertain our readers. The beauty of this medium is that allows novices like myself to express our opinion. But, I never forget that Terry Murray and his fellow coaches are human beings. They love their wives, hug their kids at night and are the breadwinners for their families. I don’t know Terry and have no reason to believe that he is anything other than a decent human being. I would like to think, perhaps naively, he and 99% of his fellow coaches would never avert their eyes from the sodomizing of children in order to win another game. It is probably inevitable that Murray is finished as the coach of our team. When it happens, I hope that we realize that firing him may mean a new start for our hockey team, but it will also be a cheerless day as well. A good man will have lost his job, and for that, I hope we will all be a little sad.