So this morning I read about Lance Leipold, the head football coach at the University of Wisconsinâ€”Whitewater, who has banned the student media from covering his team next season. Leipold was angry about an editorial in the college newspaper that accused three football players of acting arrogantly. (College football players … arrogance … noooooooo!)
I’ve had myriad chats with my wife about why I never, ever want my kids to play organized football. It has nothing to do with injury/bodily harm, and everythingâ€”absolutely everythingâ€“to do with men like Leipold. Put simply, I hate football coaches. Not all of them obviously. In fact, not most of them. But there’s a certain breed that, well, just irks the hell out of me. They bark out inanities like, “Real men eat steel!” and “Be the ball!”; call their teams “programs”; think sensitivity is for wimps. They lack any sort of world view, seeing only the green grass (or turf) that covers 100 yards of glory.
Because I’m a freelance writer, I no longer feel tied down to biting my tongue. (Ah, the liberation that comes with $1,200 monthly health insurance bills) So earlier today I sent Leipold and the school’s athletic director, Paul Plinske, an e-mail, urging them to cut the crap. When I was in college, I had several professionals stand up on my behalf, and I think it’s important to do the same.
Anyhow, here’s what I wrote. It’s not great, but I believe this man (his e-mail address is WarhawkFootball@uww.edu, in case you want to write, too) must back off and take a chill:
My name is Jeff Pearlman. I’m a former Sports Illustrated writer, author of a bunch of books, etc. I just read about your ban of the student journalists, and am writing to STRONGLY urge you to change your mind on this ill-conceived decision.
First off, student media is the primary source for students to learn the ins and outs of your team. They provide an important conduit, which surely benefits your program 99% of the time.
Second, you can’t win with this one. You come off looking silly; like a bully and a fool. Do you think Randy Shannon or Urban Meyer or Steve Spurrier waste this sort of time on the student media? It’s small beansâ€”not worth the time you’ve already used.
Most important, just like your players, student journalists are here to learn. They’ll make mistakes, have errors in judgment, run poorly written stories … it’s all part of the process. That’s what college is for. To educate and inform and allow people to make mistakes.
As it stands, from afar you look like the prototypical dolt high school football coach who thinks he can stomp over people. I’ve read your bioâ€”you’re a helluva lot better than that. Seriously, the best thing you can do is step up, apologize (it seems you owe a HUGE apology to the soccer coach, by the way, who you sorta tossed under the bus) and admit that you were speaking emotionally, not logically.
Otherwise, you lose.
CC: Paul Plinske