By Ryan Divish
It doesn't take a genius to realize that we live in different times these days. I hate when my parents say it and I am probably not old enough to say it myself, but I'll say it anyway - back in my day, we did things a little different.
My day may have been just over 10 years ago, but things were still very different than today.
No, we didn't walk to school 10 miles in the driving snow uphill both ways. By the way, neither did your parents. But when I was in high school, jeans were tight, Poison was still popular and many people still considered mullets to be cool.
Still not convinced? Sure we had computers, there were about six in the entire school and the only game you could play was Oregon Trail. The internet? Puh-leeze. We had our own information gathering network. It was called Encyclopedia Brittanica and a library card.
But the major difference I see is in the attitude of students, athletes in particular. Today, more than ever, athletes, be it high school, college or pro, are more coddled and pampered than a newborn baby to a first-time parent.
When I was in fifth-grade, I threw a pouting fit in my first basketball game for St. Jude's/Havre Central. At halftime, our coach, Mr. Feuling, took his clipboard and slammed it against the locker as hard as he could just about six inches from my right ear. In certain words not used in newsprint, he informed me that pouting on the court would not be accepted.
He yelled at me so loudly, that the kid next to me started crying. I didn't cry, I was too frozen with fear.
Did I quit? No. Did I run to the principal and ask that the coach be replaced? Not hardly. Did I run to mom and dad and complain about being yelled at? Never. Did I pout again that year? Are you kidding me, my ears were still ringing from the first tongue-lashing. Why would I make that mistake again?
Today, Mr. Feuling would most likely be fired because the athlete would run to the principal or his parents thinking he didn't deserved to be yelled at. Or the player would quit and find a new coach that would cater to his every whim.
Don't believe me? Ask University of North Carolina basketball coach Matt Doherty if it could happen.
Doherty was recently forced to resign from his job by UNC athletic director Dick Baddour after several players came to him complaining to him that Doherty yelled too much and was too hard on them.
Did he physically abuse them as Bobby Knight was accused of? Unless a hug is considered abuse, then no. Did he mentally abuse them and play mind games? No, according to players he was just very emotional and when he got mad, he would yell at them.
According to Baddour, several players threatened to transfer or leave early for the NBA. So to ensure that the players stay around, Baddour asked Doherty for his resignation or be fired.
Ahh, there is nothing like the inmates running the asylum.
One of Doherty's college teammates offered a little perspective on the situation and the guy might know a thing or too.
"There's no way that 18 and 19-year old kids need to be dictating a situation for the coach," Michael Jordan told reporters. "Kids get yelled at. I was yelled at, and there were times when I felt like I wanted to go home. But I'm a firm believer that 18-year old kids shouldn't be able to determine a coach's future."
So Jordan got yelled at when he was a kid and it was so damaging that he became what? I don't know, maybe the greatest basketball player ever.
Did the kids at North Carolina ever consider that maybe they deserved to be yelled at sometimes? What did they think Doherty would do when they did things wrong, serve them milk and cookies?
College basketball, especially in places like North Carolina, is more than just a college sport. Unfortunately, it's an obsession that comes with very large financial ramifications and even larger expectations.
When they hired Doherty, they hired to him to win and they didn't tell him he had to always be nice.
Still kids are kids. Even the early lesson I learned in fifth grade, faded a little in my memory. But I got a harsh reminder.
In my second year of American Legion baseball, my coach removed me from a tournament game in Whitefish for arguing with an umpire.
Being a little hot-headed, I began arguing with the coach and was just about to be removed from the team as well.
Before that could happen, my dad came in the dugout and removed me by my ears, and we had a "little talk" about my behavior. Also in words that can't be used in print, he informed me that I either apologize for my actions and play the game the right way, or we could go back to Havre and I could get a job.
It was something that I didn't realize at that point and many kids don't realize today. Playing sports in junior high, high school and college isn't a right, it's a privilege. A privilege that comes with certain responsibilities and repercussions.
Many athletes today hold expectations when it comes to sports. They believe they should get to play all the time and never get criticized how they play especially by their coach. And if they don't get their way, they take their ball and go home.
It's sad really. Because kids today are better athletes than they were 10 years ago. They are bigger, faster and stronger. Unfortunately many also have bigger egos, smaller tolerances for criticism and a sense that the world owes them unearned success.
Do all kids do this? Thankfully no. In this area alone, we came name several kids that are the antithesis of a prima dona. But they are definitely a minority.
You have to wonder, 10 years from now what will young athletes be like. Will it be worse. Will the athletes of today be sitting around preaching, "back in my day, things weren't quite so easy."