Bobby Knight, to me, has always represented just about everything that’s wrong with a certain flavor of American masculinity. His blinkered, rageful lack of perspective — the high standard to which he held others (including those just trying to use the salad bar) and the lack of any personal behavioral standard to which he held himself — strikes me as at the root of a great many problems in our culture. I always figured this was just me being an (sub)urban (sub)elite or something; that there was somehow something in me that was inadequately respectful of bellowing dickholes in windbreakers and permanent press slacks. But it’s nice to see that ESPN’s Pat Forde — not a writer I generally think much of (or think of much) — not only agrees with me, but manages to pretty well nail the whole ugly appropriateness of both Knight’s mystique and his departure from Texas Tech. Here’s Forde on Knight, “a putative disciplinarian who lacks self-discipline:”
You’ll hear a lot in the coming days about Bob Knight doing this “on his terms.” Of course he did. When has Bob Knight ever done anything that was not on his terms? He is a walking one-way street.
The irony of this is where Knight’s terms left him in the end.
Knight’s terms left him at a remote basketball backwater on the Texas prairie, where the stands at the home gym are rarely full. Knight’s terms left him a bit player on the national stage, his relevance leaking steadily as he made Texas Tech basketball better but couldn’t make it matter. Knight’s terms left him far from the basketball mecca where he had his greatest glory and became a polarizing icon in the sport.
If Knight had been willing to budge off “his terms” — to treat people with the respect he always demanded, to refrain from bullying, to avoid the abusive behavior — this moment would be far different.
The tribute would be unanimous and universal.
Had he not blown himself up with toxic temper at Indiana University, they could have run a parade route through the state from East Chicago to Vevay, and fans would have lined every mile of it. And he would have been closer to 1,000 wins than 900…
In the end, it feels hollow for Bob Knight to shuffle offstage on a February Monday, far from the spotlight of his sport and nearly three years removed from his last NCAA Tournament victory. At least he did not exit in Woody Hayes fashion, as had often been feared and forecast, but there is something un-General-like about it.
Perhaps this is it: He is often championed by people who believe he stood for old-fashioned American values. Finishing what you start is one of those values, and now Bob Knight has contradicted his mythology one last time by walking out on the job.
The piece is short, and worth reading in its entirety. Thanks to Brendan Flynn for the tip, and best of luck to Knight in the next act of his career: a
loving grandfather fight-picking Republican Congressman in Indiana.