On Saturday night, the Michigan Wolverines beat down the Michigan State Spartans by a score of 29-7. After the game, a Michigan player was beat up by what appeared to be a host of opponents.
Too few details have been released to tell the whole story, but there is video of the altercation. It’s bad. It should never have happened. Watch the video below.
Reports from Ann Arbor suggest that no serious injuries were incurred. They also note an ongoing police investigation into the event.
It’s a bad look for football.
With so few details of the situation currently available, observers can only refer to the video. As they say in football circles, “the eye in the sky doesn’t lie”. This time, the eye in the sky caught yet another ugly outcome of sports gone wrong. Should we have expected this?
When coaches preach violence and stir up hatred for opponents, this is what happens.
When coaches model irrational levels of anger in response to outcomes on the field, this is what happens.
When coaches overestimate the need to teach toughness, they run the risk of teaching violence which is, in this case, crime.
There is no evidence to suggest that any coaches involved did anything wrong. That’s not the suggestion here. In fact, it is highly likely that each of these esteemed programs will address the issue in an appropriate and supportive way.
AND, let’s not forget that we need toughness. Absolutely. But toughness should refer to the selective inclusion of grit, resilience, and intensity as needed. Everyone faces challenges in life, sports do a great job of teaching healthy relationships to challenge… until they go overboard. Once those capacities are no longer intentional, when one no longer has control over those impulses, it becomes a problem.
We recently responded to Ken Dorsey’s fit after a Buffalo Bills loss. Most people understood immediately why his lack of control was counter to the goals of sport. Many others did not. One person wrote in “I hate this take” while others went back and forth defending him for his “passion”.
Ken can do whatever he wants. We’re not the ethics police. But it is obvious that when cultures promote anger and violence through language and modeling, there will be anger and violence.
See also: Richard Sherman trying to break down the door of his in-laws’ house.
See also: the Texas High School football player who knocked out a referee.
See also: the countless videos of youth football coaches fighting after games.
The list goes on. It’s embarrassing. Still, the only hard stance we have taken is that is coaches continue to suggest that sports teach life lessons, they have to own their part in those lessons. There are countless confirmations that “sports gone wrong” continues to be an issue. Coaches, we can do better.
Football is an amazing game. It is the ultimate team sport and the potential for life lessons is nearly endless. But we have to be intentional about it.
Toughness is good. Kindness is good. Grit is good. Compassion is good. All of this can be true at the same time. Thoughtful coaches will teach for all, highlight balance, and model the true path to “life lessons” we so often refer to.
There’s good work to be done, Coaches. Let’s do it!