Parents Might or Might Not Just Understand

At the end of the Bob Knight era and throughout the Mike Davis era, my cousin was a manager and then the video coordinator, and then, if I’m not mistaken, the Director of Basketball Operations for Indiana Basketball. He was on the damn poster for the the love of all that is holy! This was particularly cool for all of his who knew him. Dream come true, one of our own deep on the inside, access to watch practices and occasionally free t-shirts, and, for me at least, when IU came to Chicago, access to tickets.

He got me really good seats for three or four Big Ten Tournaments in a row, sitting amongst the families of the players. If, at the time, I’d known the rules the people who get tickets for the Masters have to follow while they are there (in short, don’t break the rules or you’ll get kicked out and the person who gave you the tickets will never be allowed to buy tickets again) I would have viewed these seats in that way. Being an ass not only reflects poorly on me, but also on the person who got me the tickets.

But, I’m also me. And I only have so much control over such things.

As such, during the 2001 Big Ten tournament, I was siting behind the basket, surrounded by the families of the players, and occasionally, by Mike Roberts when IU wasn’t playing. There was a play, during the Illinois game, I believe, where Kyle Hornsby threw a very bad pass from mid-court that was immediately, and easily picked off. At which point, I exclaimed, “Jesus, that was a stupid pass!”

Adam, sitting next to me, leaned over and said, “That’s his mom sitting right there,” two rows in front of us.

To which I replied, “She knows it was a stupid pass.”

My position, then and now, was that I wasn’t calling him stupid, or disparaging his character, or cussing him out, or saying he was a terrible player and worse human being. I was commenting on the stupid nature of that play. I was correct. It was stupid. And I’d wager that his parents, love him though they do, agree with me that it was stupid. So, no harm in point it out.

I’ve been thinking of this a lot lately.

I’m not sitting physically in the parents section anymore, but thanks to the glory of social media and the dogged efforts of the people running a Facebook group I am a member of, there’s a greater than zero percent chance that the parents of some of the players are reading this right now. Some of the parents are now members of this fan group, as well as active tweeters and instagrammers and whatever else is out there in the social media landscape. So, from an internet perspective, I’m saying all of this while sitting right next to the parents of some of the current players. And not just this, everything I write here.

And not just them. Former players and staff members are in this group now. And this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially not the former players. But, and here’s the part I’ve been trying to figure out how to say for a few weeks now:

I don’t like writing in the parent’s section.

(Here’s the part where I preface my main point by telling you explicitly what my main point is not so as to avoid confusion)

This is not me telling other grown ups how to spend their time on-line.

This is not me telling other parents how to be parents.

This is not me telling anyone how to think or act, or what to believe.

This is me. Telling you that I don’t like this.

I used to be in the position to hire and fire people. I may, once again, find myself in a similar position. It’s a responsibility that should never be taken lightly, and one I took very seriously. I also LOVED the interview portion of hiring people. If I lined up a day’s worth of interviews, let’s say six people back to back for a single position, all in the same day, I was guaranteed to have some great conversations, and also talk to at least one crazy person. The one crazy person made the whole day worth it. I always left with a story.

And this is one of them.

I had a candidate once who interviewed for a position. They were right out of college, looking to land their first real job. And they were not a good fit for the position. I can’t remember why exactly, but shortly after sending the obligatory thank-you-for-taking-the-time-to-meet-with-us-we-had-many-excellent-candidates-and-have-decided-to-go-in-another-direction-good-luck-in-all-your-future-endeavors letter, I got a call from this applicants father. He left me a message about how his child should be given the position. How I did not see their true potential, and how I should give his child a second interview and hire them for this job if I knew what was best.

Needless to say, no such second interview was granted and I left with the impression, not that this was someone I had missed out on, but that I had dodged a bullet by avoiding this crazy parent, and that quite possibly this candidate was not quite ready to be an adult if daddy was calling to beg for them to get a job.

My point is, that there comes a time when kids have to stand on their own, and public or private interjections from their parents don’t really help the kid. In fact, in most cases, they are seen as unwelcome by just about everyone, including the kid who would rather their parent(s) just stayed out of it.

So, I don’t like the social media presence of parents.

They, of course, can do what they want. I am not in charge of them, and I’m not trying to tell them what to do anyway. But I don’t like it.

I also don’t like worrying that I’m going to offend them in some way.

It is my policy not to go after college kids. I will point out when they are making terrible decisions (as has happened all too often in the last year). And I will point out when they’ve made a stupid pass (sorry Kyle Hornsby). And I will lay the blame on the players and not the coach when I think that’s where the fault lies (see: almost everything I wrote last season), but I don’t just tee off on kids. It’s not fair, and it’s not something a grown up should be doing.

But I don’t like worrying that I’m going to write something about the play of Stan “Stumpy” Robinson (or give him a dopey nickname based solely on a bandaid), or make a joke about “The Neck” and personally upset someone.

And since I can’t stop parents, or former players, or current staff members, from reading what I write, I’ve decided not to worry about whether it will offend them or not. I can’t write that way. It ceases to be fun for me, and I imagine it would cease to be interesting or worth reading.

So, parents, if you’re reading this. I might poke fun at your kid. I might talk in detail about where I see mistakes or faults in their games. I might praise them to the heavens.

If you choose to be here for that, I welcome you.

Though, if I were in your shoes, I’m not sure that’s a decision I’d make for myself. The internet is fully of crazy people and your son is a teenaged celebrity. Some asshole is bound to go to far from time to time, and it’s only going to make you feel bad (be it angry, or sad, or resentful). I think I’d give twitter a pass for four years. And I think I’d refrain from actively participating in fan page activity. But that’s just me.

To quote a 1980’s Reebok ad campaign “U B U.”

Or to quote a 1970s Pink Floyd song, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”

Cuz, I’ma keep diamond shinin’ lookin’ like I robbed Liberace.

Jeff Taylor