The Reptile At Courtside

Normally I don’t pay much attention to coaches.  I may hate opposing players, or think they are overrated, or wish we had them on our team, but the opposing coach is more of a non-entity.

That’s why I find the revulsion I feel for Tom Crean, the head basketball coach of the Indiana Hoosiers, so interesting.  I’ve come to really despise him, because he seems to have every despicable quality in the book.  He’s a poor sport who won’t give the opposing coach an honest handshake if the Hoosiers lose.  During games he stalks back and forth like a reptile in a pet shop cage and ventures far out onto the court in violation of the rules.  He’s a braggart in victory and a whiner in defeat.  When he loses, he’ll sulk for extended periods before facing the media and answering their questions.  And recently he weirdly berated the assistant coach of an opposing team.  He just seems like a thoroughly unpleasant guy who has some deep-seated issues.

He’s done a fine job at Indiana, I’ll give him credit for that.  He took a fabled basketball school that was on its knees after years of futility and some bad head coaching hires, he recruited some excellent players and coached them well, and he turned things around to the point that the Hoosiers won the Big Ten regular season championship this year.  Some of his former players say he has been a tremendous friend and help to them.  But, what Tom Crean possesses in recruiting and basketball savvy he seems to utterly lack in charm and sportsmanship.  If I were an Indiana fan, I’d be celebrating his success but cringing with embarrassment at some of his antics.

I’ve always thought that coaching was an honorable and important profession, because coaches can have an incredible impact on the young people they mentor and teach.  For that reason, I think coaches should be role models and always strive to exhibit the qualities — like sportsmanship, and generosity in victory and graciousness in defeat, and accepting responsibility — that are so important to success in life.  Crean doesn’t do so.  In my mind, that makes him somebody who can figure out how to win basketball games, but not a very good coach.

Big Book Buff Bulletin!

If you’re a bibliophile — and what rational person isn’t? — mark your calendars for Saturday, May 11, 2013, when the Ohioana Book Festival returns to the Fort Hayes campus in downtown Columbus.

IMG_3362This year, the Festival features a great list of featured authors from the Buckeye state, as well as dozens of different festival authors, poets, and artists who will be participating in the activities.  Once again, the Festival will confirm the remarkable depth and breadth of talent to be found in this little corner of the world.  And although the program schedule has yet to be announced, you can be sure that there will be interesting presentations by authors, thought-provoking panel discussions, and some quirky moments leavened with humor — because that’s what you tend to get when you bring together highly creative people.

I’ll be volunteering at the Festival again this year.  Last year, I was an “information volunteer,” which gave me a chance to harangue incoming guests are some of the great events.  If you’re interested in volunteering, you can find more information here.

I hope to see some of our readers and friends at the 2013 Ohioana Book Festival!

The Swimming Swine Stiffs Of Shanghai

Imagine strolling along one of China’s rivers and then seeing and smelling, with disgust, a dead pig floating past.  Then imagine glancing upriver and seeing hundreds of swollen swine bobbing in the water.

That was the scene along the Huangpu — now pronounced Huang-Pee-YEW! — River in Shanghai.  With improbable precision, authorities say 5,916 deceased pigs have been pulled from the river. Some unlucky bureaucrat evidently was tasked with providing a comprehensive count of the carcasses.

The Huangpu River provides a major source of drinking water for Shanghai and its 23 million residents.  Because hogs aren’t the cleanest residents of the planet even when they are alive, and because death inevitably produces gases, fluids, and other fruits of decomposition that no rational person would want to consume, the citizens of Shanghai have expressed alarm about drinking water tainted by the cadavers.  Chinese authorities have assured them that the Huangpu water quality is safe, but the citizens are skeptical.  I’m betting that the same bean-counting bureaucrat who determined that 5,916 pigs were involved will soon find a 11,943 percent increase in the consumption of bottled water by our Chinese friends.

Curiously, the source of the thousands of perished pigs, and their cause of death, hasn’t been determined.  I’m just a city boy, and I know the Chinese interior is big, but 5,916 pigs sounds like a lot to me.  You’d think the same precise carcass-counters in the Chinese government could readily detect the disappearance of a vast herd of hogs.  And wouldn’t you want to know where the pigs came from, and how they died, before you determined that the water in which the swollen ex-swine were bobbing was safe for humans to drink?

Apparently, not in China — where first you count.