Culbreath: Sports integrity takes a diveWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s nothing in sports I hate more than diving.
No, not into a pool, ya dink. Granted, it’s not my favorite Olympic sport, and I typically stay away from pools. The world doesn’t need to see me without a shirt on. You’re welcome.
I mean faking fouls to gain advantages. Once the tool of international soccer players (not hating, futbol fans, but you know it’s true), it’s taken quite the hold in American sports. The NBA may be the most egregious offender, but it’s infecting other sports as well. Both college and pro football have dedicated “fall guys” to drop like a stone in case the team needs a timeout. Hockey has long dealt with embellishment, and in fact have built in a 2 minute minor if anyone is particularly egregious. And while coaches have always been complicit, I’ve never expected them to be directly involved.
Enter two incidents recently: Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd “spilling his soda”, and Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin “being too close to the sideline”. Both coaches knew exactly what they were doing, and both coaches were caught red handed.
For Kidd, behind to the LA Lakers and out of timeouts, suddenly was struck by one of his players, causing him to spill his soda on the court. While he cleaned up and the stadium crew mopped up the floor, Kidd’s assistants knelt with the team and a whiteboard, drawing up a play. When going to the tape, you can read Coach Kidd’s lips loud and clear: “Hit me.”
(An interesting note: the Lakers knew exactly what was going on, because two of their players sat in the Nets’ huddle. Since it’s not an official timeout, they can’t keep them out.)
On the gridiron, with the Pittsburgh Steelers playing Baltimore, Coach Mike Tomlin found himself a little farther out on the sideline in the middle of a kick return by Jacoby Jones. Jones had his defender beat and was on his way for 6, when Tomlin made a move to “jump out of the way”, which caused Jones to make a cut, and allowed his defender to get him from behind.
The good news is that both coaches were called out on the carpet. Kidd was fined $50,000 for his spill. Tomlin got it even worse: $100,000, and quite possibly losing a draft pick. But the implication is far worse: that teams simply don’t care about the rules anymore. Winning just means too much. Too much money, too much glory. People say they like integrity, but they like winning more.
Why else would Urban Meyer keep Dontre Wilson and Marcus Hall on the team for the Big Ten Championship Game after their ejections from the Michigan game? Granted, their ejections were the result of some egging on by the guys in Maize and Blue, and I would expect that if Michigan makes a bowl, that Royce Jenkins-Stone would also be suspended. But especially for Maurice Hall, whose double-birds as he walked out of the Big House were the lasting image of this year’s edition of The Game, a statement needed to be made about having character through adversity. Urb could make the statement that those kind of breakdowns would not be permitted on his team, or he could take a dive in leadership. Say “well, he was suspended for the rest of that game, so that counts”, just so he can get his advantage in Chicago.
That may be the message of modern sports: integrity matters, until it flies in the face of victory. In that case, then throw out the book, and dive after it.
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director at 1370 WSPD.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Big Ten Championship Game, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago, Coach Mike Tomlin, Dontre Wilson, football, futball, Jacoby Jones, Jason Kid, LA Lakers, Marcus Hall, Michigan, NBA, NFL, Olympic diving, Pittsburgh Steelers, Royce Jenkins-Stone, soccer, Urban Meyer