SIDELINE SLANTS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
Whenever something goes wrong, we love to point fingers; it’s only a matter of time before we see a new reality TV show called “The Blame Game.”

At halftime of the Tabor-Sterling football game, some Tabor alumni asked me what was wrong with the Bluejays. After all, they held a slim 7-0 lead against a team picked to finish at or near the bottom of the conference.

Never mind that as recently as three years ago, we would have been overjoyed to be ahead of anybody at halftime.

As it turned out, Tabor blew the game open in the third quarter with 28 more points, but guess what the tone of fans would have been if the game had stayed close or if Tabor had lost?

“Didn’t Coach McCarty have the team prepared? Why didn’t he play so-and-so more?”

“What’s wrong with the seniors? They must not have any leadership.”

“The officiating was awful. How could Tabor be so heavily penalized?”

You get the idea. Someone has to take the fall when things don’t go well. Fans, parents, sports columnists, sports talk shows, coaches and administrators are well versed in the blame game.

There’s nothing quite like a disgruntled fan or parent who has all the answers. In addition to running an athletic team, they’re convinced they could establish peace in the Middle East and fix the sluggish economy. Don’t confuse these folks with the facts. Their minds are made up already.

A good sports talk show entertains and informs, but there are days when it’s nothing more than hot air. Callers and some hosts without an ounce of coaching knowledge think that they’re experts on coaching.

Sports columnists, including yours truly, are not always as tarp as a shack, er, as sharp as a tack, either. As students of athletic competition, our job is to take a position and write about it in what we hope is a well-reasoned manner.

It’s still just an opinion, and sometimes it may not be worth as much as the paper it’s printed on. That doesn’t stop us from writing though, because even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then.

Not all coaches are angels either. Some play the blame game as well as anyone. Here are some examples.

“I don’t know how the officials can make that call when the game is on the line.”

“My players didn’t keep their composure and they didn’t execute. They’ve got to step up and make plays.”

“The fans aren’t supporting us like they should.”

“The newspaper doesn’t give us enough ink.”

It was refreshing to hear K-State football coach Bill Snyder take responsibility (or you can call it “blame”) for his team’s upset loss to Marshall last month. He said that he didn’t prepare the team as well as he should have. How refreshing is that?

Come to think of it, college coaches should be careful about blaming players. After all, who recruited those players?

There’s little to be gained for a high school coach to publicly blame players. Rather, a smart coach will praise their attitude and effort rather than blame kids for a losing season.

The reason it’s so easy to play the blame game is because of self-pride. We don’t want to look bad.

As a basketball official, I know how hard it is to admit a mistake.

After nearly 30 years in stripes I should know better. I still remember blowing a call in a college game. The coach was understandably irate, but I knew that if he kept yelling I’d have to give him a technical foul. I didn’t want to call one since I blew the original call.

Instead, I walked over to him and said, “Don’t you think I wish I had it (the call) over?”

He stopped complaining. The game continued and from that time on, the relationship I had with that coach was quite good.

You’d think I’d learn from that, but it’s still a struggle. More often than not, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

But if you like to play the blame game, don’t worry. It won’t disappear anytime soon because there’s always plenty of blame to go around.

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