Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Coaches Foul Out

In the last few days 2 coaches, Alabama's football coach, Mike Price and Iowa State's basketball coach Larry Eustachy were fired for "embarrassing" their schools. The acts that resulted in their respective terminations were, in Price's case hanging around strip joints, and in Eustachy's case partying in inappropriate ways with college girls.

I imagine there have been a whole range of reactions to these events in the sports press, I don't know since I'm not a big sports fan. I did read the reaction of a sports columnist in our local newspaper that I thought was perfectly stunning in its thick headedness. The column is so obtuse as to be almost funny, except the ideas presented are really quite dangerous.

The sports columnist takes exception to the firing of the coaches and gives, basically, three reasons for his position. First, he says that their actions were not illegal which he seems to assume means they should therefore not be considered immoral. Second, he says that the rules governing coaches’ behavior in these types of situations are subjective and unclear, and therefore, the coaches should not be held accountable to these vague rules. Third, he seems to be saying that the coaches, when presented with these types of temptations should not be expected to be able to control themselves. This line of reasoning is remarkably wrong headed.

Let’s consider another type of situation that was once legal in the United States -- slavery. Early in America's history slavery was legal; would our homegrown sportswriter say that such a situation was morally correct? I don't think he would. But then one must ask the question, if slavery is immoral, why do we think it is immoral? Can it be that slavery, which was once legal, was then moral and only became immoral because the laws were changed? I don't know many people who would make that argument. But then why is human slavery considered always and everywhere to be immoral?

The reason is, of course, because it denies a human person, created in the image of God, the right to live his life in a fully human way, as a free being. It denies that person the right to make moral choices and reduces him to the level of an animal. This is wrong because it violates God's law. If there is no such thing as God's law, there is no reason why human slavery should be considered immoral; such things are merely subject to the whim of the majority in society, at any time they can be changed. The weak become subject to the arbitrary exercise of the will of the powerful.

The local sports columnist says that men cannot be expected to exercise self-control when presented with, especially when presented with, sexually tempting situations. He thinks such expectations are unreasonable. But if this is true, then it is impossible to expect human beings to act as human beings, with will and intellect, rather than animals subject to only instinctive behavior. This is precisely the argument used to justify slavery -- the slaves were not human beings capable of acting in a human way. They were, it was argued, only animals who could rightly be bought and sold and who could only be trained to work like animals. Of course, this was nonsense and it is nonsense to say that supposedly mature men are incapable of controlling themselves when faced with tempting situations. These men failed to act humanly. Instead of mentoring the children to become responsible adults under their tutelage they themselves wanted to become like children.

The final argument, that the rules that determine what type of conduct is "embarrassing" are not easily understood by most adult human beings, and especially coaches, is preposterous. If they are such complete idiots that they are unable to figure them out for themselves, all they need to do is consult the 10 Commandments. Our sports columnist asks, "What laws did [these coaches] break?" The answer is that they broke God's law. These laws are not obscure, they are self-evident, and they are written on the heart of each one of us. We know in our hearts that it is wrong to enslave another human being. We know in our hearts it is wrong for adult, married men, to party with college girls and strippers. We recognize these actions as severe character defects in those who perform them. If we try to deny this, we end up denying our very humanity; we become slaves to whatever temptation happens to appear under our noses.

These men deserved to be fired.

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