“Either you die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”
Illinois basketball Coach Bruce Weber has witnessed the applause and praise become something far less desirable. The pundits have forgotten how he resurrected the basketball program and nearly led them to the National Championship with Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head. As the days to Coach Weber’s imminent firing approaches at season’s end, I am reminded that this has been the fate of several coaches and great players; it is the consequence of over staying your welcome and not knowing the right time to leave…
In Bloomington, Indiana was home to sport royalty and a coaching innovator that was praised for his intellect and high basketball IQ. Each year Coach Bobby Knight had his Hoosiers in contention for the National Championship due to his ability to bring great players like Isiah Thomas and Calbert Cheaney to leave their urban jungles and call the Hoosier state home. Coach Knight continued to collect wins and build championship caliber teams each year, and despite his well-known temper everyone turned a blind eye as long as the rafters continued to read “FINAL FOUR” or “ELITE EIGHT”. However, the once glorified coach was unable to keep up with the new landscape of college basketball and those cheers of praise become glares of resentment toward an old-timer who refused to recruit and was no longer able to mount the banners he once did in years past. A coach that was once glorified and given the key to city of Bloomington was fired after nearly a decade of his young men graduating and getting their degrees but Coach Knight no longer posted the winning records he once did. Coach Knight’s antics at that time were no longer tolerable and were now considered grounds for termination due too fewer McDonald’s All-Americans signing Letters of Intent with the Hoosiers of Indiana and no new banners hanging from the rafters.
This year, another icon suffered the same fate and he resided in Happy Valley, the winningest coach in college football history the Great Joe Paterno. For nearly five decades he was the face of Penn State, the infamous coke bottle glasses accompanied with the rolled up slacks and white socks. The endless miles he walked up and down a sideline will forever be unmatched by anyone who aspires to coach this game we call football. However, only two weeks after being praised and cheered in a packed press room for reaching the 400 wins milestone those cheers quickly became words of condemnation that led to his termination as coach of the Penn State football team. For years, fans and spectators wondered when this icon was going to hang it up, several thought after the Orange Bowl when he beat his good friend Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles in 2006. Such an exit would have made him retire a hero, however Joe Pa chose otherwise and is now must face the consequence of his actions. And will be remembered not for the thousands of lives he changed but how he negatively impacted the lives of little boys he never even knew by saying nothing.
Life is filled with several more examples such the aforementioned Bobby Bowden being ‘fired’ from the university he helped erect or Jerry Rice & Joe Montana being released by the 49ers organization that they sacrificed their bodies to win 2 Super Bowl rings for. It appears that becoming the villain is a mask that we are all capable of adorning no matter the good deeds or sacrifices that we have made at some point in our life. The question is will you choose your exit? Or will you be escorted to that exit by security and shown the door? Our fate is our own and in the end we may not choose how we are remembered. – A.Denmark (@EatDrnkSlpSprtz)