Hate Mail: Sweet science, bitter e-mail
I want to rip ESPN announcer Craig James. I want to call him a typical helicopter parent -- they hover over their children, get it? -- and point out that in his blind love for his male progeny, he never noticed that his son is actually a weenie.
To do that, I'd have to rip his son. And that's OK, because I want to rip Adam James. I want to point out that James, a sophomore receiver at Texas Tech, has been called lazy, soft and entitled by his teammates -- and that I believe they're probably telling the truth.
But I can't do it. I can't pin the blame for Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach's shocking downfall on Craig or Adam James. Not when Mike Leach has been accused of sending Adam James into a small, dark room, twice, as some sort of triage gone awry.
Earlier this month Adam James had a concussion, presumably. Texas Tech's team doctors are said to have made the diagnosis themselves. Leach either didn't like it or didn't believe it -- or both -- and so, under the insincere auspices of doing this for James' own good, he had James stand in small, dark spaces during two recent football practices.
For hours at a time.
And you just don't do that.
Leach was suspended, and then he was fired, and for all of that I want to rip Texas Tech. I want to rip a hypocritical institution that would hire basketball coach Bob Knight, who already had been caught on camera grabbing the throat of a player at Indiana, but would fire its football coach for sending a player to a dark room.
To do that, I'd have to rip Texas Tech athletics director Gerald Myers. And that's OK, because I want to rip Myers. He's the buffoon who hired his good ol' boy buddy, Knight, and then stood by Knight after the insane basketball coach lashed out at the school chancellor over a perceived slight at a salad bar.
But I can't do it. I can't pretend that Texas Tech in general and Myers in particular are the biggest villains in this story -- not when Leach has been undeniably cruel and possibly even criminal. A judge in Ohio told me this week that if the central details of this story had happened in a non-sports area -- say, a foster parent forcing a child to stand for hours alone in a dark room -- that the foster parent would be treading dangerously close to felony child abuse, punishable in some states by up to five years in prison. That's assuming the accusations against Leach are true, and based on the semi-concessional statements made to the media by Leach's attorney, I believe they are true.
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I want to rip Leach's attorney, by the way. I want to rip Ted Liggett for using loaded, scoffing words like claimed -- as in, Adam James "claimed to have been hurt," Liggett told the Associated Press -- and for thinking he was defusing the situation by noting that James wasn't kept for three hours in a dark room, but only two, as if that makes much difference.
And I want to rip Liggett some more for noting that James had suffered only from a "mild concussion." By definition, a concussion is a bruising of the brain. Even if James suffered what could be quantified as the mildest possible bruising of the brain, there's nothing trivial about such an injury. You don't "claim" to be hurt when you have a mild concussion. You are hurt. Period.
After I'm done ripping Leach's attorney, I want to rip Leach's amateur supporting cast as well -- his players. As I wrote earlier, I believe it's entirely possible that Adam James, son of Craig, has come to behave with a sense of entitlement. I believe Adam's Texas Tech teammates probably were accurate when they described him as lazy, as a malingerer. But I also believe that they saw what Leach did. They saw a teammate of theirs -- even an apparently unpopular teammate -- treated with such disrespect and even disdain, and what did they do? In e-mails obtained by Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, they defended the bully, and they did so by attacking the victim. They're invertebrates, these players.
And I want to rip Lincoln Riley. I want to rip the Red Raiders' inside receivers coach for deciding that Adam James wasn't causing all of this commotion simply because he had been shoved into a pen like a misbehaving animal. No, Riley's story was this: James was angry because he had been disciplined into running the stairs -- and that the complaints were simply "his way at trying to 'get back' at us coaches."
But I can't do it. I can't obscure the facts of this case by pointing the finger at Leach's money-grubbing attorney or at his butt-kissing players or at his boot-licking assistant. Not when Leach did what he did to James. Let me say this: I have two sons, and if one of them had played for Leach, and my son had been made to stand alone for hours in a dark room -- storage room, electrical room, media room, any room -- I'd have hustled to Lubbock, Texas, to shove my fist down Leach's throat.
Which really makes me want to rip Craig James. He's the father who heard these accusations from his son and decided they were so outrageous that he made a phone call -- or maybe he got good and angry and sent an e-mail -- to someone at Texas Tech seeking a remedy. And the remedy was going to be a sterile apology. That's all Texas Tech, after conferring with the James family, initially wanted from Leach to make this go away: an apology for mistreating Adam James. And that would have been good enough for Craig James? Pathetic. For a helicopter parent, James has some mighty flaccid propellers.
But I can't do it. I can't rip the father in this story, and I can't rip the son. I can't rip the ghastly attorney or the hypocritical athletics director or the disloyal teammates or the sycophantic assistant coach. I can't even rip the coach who was fired, or the school that fired him.
But what I can do is this: In a story where there are no winners, only a long line of losers, I can rip every single person involved.
And I think that's what I just did.