Thursday, April 3, 2008

KU Fans and Roy Williams

With the upcoming game pitting Kansas against North Carolina on Saturday, there has been a lot of coverage on Roy Williams having to play the school he formerly coached for 15 years.

95% of the coverage has been about poor Ol' Roy and how the KU fans have mistreated him since he left to go coach UNC. Unless you are a KU fan and followed Roy the 15 years he coached at KU, things he said about never leaving KU, how he couldn't abandon the kids he recruited, it's hard to understand the feelings and the viewpoint. It's also been pointed out how KU fans are just bad fans - they should appreciate the time Roy put in at KU. That they vent and rage on their message boards having nothing but negativity to spew about upcoming appointments. I think every school's sports message boards have this element. Don't believe me? Check out http://www.insidecarolina.com/ to see what the UNC fans have to say. And while you're there, state anything that doesn't say that UNC is the best basketball team in the WORLD and you will be instantly banned. And you thought China was tough on internet dissenters.


Being a Kansas alum entering the school in Roy's second season there, I've had the opportunity to live it all. I ran across a post on a KU message board that gives an alternative view to what has been reported in most media coverage this week. It was posted at http://www.phog.net/ and, I feel, acurately reflects the feelings of a lot of KU fans. You can check it out at http://mbd.scout.com/mb.aspx?S=172#s=172&f=2481&t=2303609 and I'm posting the full text below for those who cannot access it.

BEGIN POST:
I'm just going to post this as a basic response to most of the articles -- specifically the Jason King piece -- about Roy and Kansas fans and the Armeggedon matchup on Saturday. I have the feeling that most media members and "reasonable people" are, again, painting this picture of Roy as some poor, tortured soul who has been terrorized by the irrational behavior of a lunatic fan base. Like most things, this is partly true. Yes, the whole thing is ridiculous, yes, some fans go overboard, yes people need to let go, blah blah and blah. But fuggit, this is a message board, and I can say whatever I want to say about Ol' Roy and how much of a self-involved freakin'drama queen he is and always has been. So here I go... what the hell, it's sports right? And it's not truly fun if we don't have a villain to kick around... so buckle up.

There's a quote from a guy named Scott Buxton about this whole saga being like a ugly break up or a divorce. When I first read the article, the whole breakup of a marriage angle seemed melodramatic and convenient, until King painted this picture of seemingly constantly sobbing (surprise!) Roy torn apart at the seams by the two passions, the two great loves of his life, Kansas and Carolina. The image of Roy leaning in for a sip of his Coca-Cola as he reflects and laments, talks about the angst ridden secret meeting with Dana Andersen in Los Angeles -- well, the cynic in me has come out, daggers up, to issue a rebuttal of sorts. I can't resist.

As ridiculous as this may sound to some, a relationship with a coach to a university, especially with one as passionate and as committed as KU's fanbase -- IS like a marriage, especially when you have to deal with each other over the course of fifteen years. There's the courtship, first date, moving into together... but when one of you commits, and then doesn't commit, and then vows to be together forever, thick or thin, and then races off with another woman on a private jet in the middle of the night... then, sorry, but **** 'em. Seriously. They aren't OWED anything -- not the pictures of the wedding, the family dog, the blissful feelings of first love, or the terrific friends we made over the years. Roy is so tortured about being hated by KU fans, but, like most egomaniacs, Roy wants it both ways, to be loved by one divorced fan base while being married to another, no matter what happened in between, and hence all his moaning about those dadgum great things he done for the good people of Kansas. Roy's got some weird personality disorder -- he MUST be admired and remembered the exact way that HE wants to be remembered. It's the same quote over and over ad infinitum: "I gave my all, and no one appreciates me anymore..." Well ... a) it was your job to give your all, for which you were paid like an oil baron and fawned over like a rock star and b) just be a man with your decision and quit crying about it like a sixteen year old girl whose ex-boyfriend won't return her calls anymore after she ran off with the JV quarterback. It's ridiculous. I'm tired of the media and talking heads portraying KU fans as this whining group that has no right to feel about the guy the way they want to. All these articles wouldn't dare criticize or at least point out that Roy is emotionally off his rocker, also, and just because he won a bunch of games at KU he deserves to be let off the hook for being a jack ass about the whole UNC thing. KU fans are being absurd? I think it's the other way around.

Look, I basically excuse Roy for the past, merely because I feel that most great coaches -- and he IS great, no question -- are egomaniacs with an entitled sense of self. Great coaches create a fiefdom where their ideas, philosophies, and values are mandated from up on high. They get to be, by all normal measures, little Gods with whistles around their necks. By nature, they're inherently selfish and filled with all the insecurities that come with a power trip that involves telling 18-22 year old boys to shuffle their feet and dribble a leather ball. As such, after creating and thriving in a world where you set all the rules and the universe revolves around your understanding of the secondary break, you aren't going to have the perspective of the ordinary man. You can do no wrong, because in the world you create, you are NEVER wrong. It's part of the psychological profile of great coaches, and to deny otherwise is to have a simplistic, shallow view of human behavior. These men make a living, nay, a legacy, off their cult of personality -- whether it's Coach K acting like the funeral director for all things fun, or Bruce Pearl taking his shirt off and fondling Erin Andrews at half time like the horny, drunken sophomore he really is.

Incidentally, this knack of creating a cult of personality that legendary coaches have is one of the problems I have, if you can call it that, with Bill Self. By all accounts, Self is a pretty normal dude. He doesn't whine, he doesn't indulge in self-pity, he isn't full of himself in press conferences, he doesn't make the game about how smart he is or how hard he works or anything like that. He views himself as a coach with players at a big-time school. And sometimes, SOMETIMES, I'd prefer a smug, arrogant controlling and petulant ******* like Howland, or a neurotic shuckster like Calipari, or an insecure emotional train wreck like Roy, than a truly humble, take the high road, it's not about me, we just work hard and compete and hope for the best, Bill Self. I'm not saying Self is better coach than the above three, but, compared to those guys, Self is low maintenance. He's not a phony, and Bill Self is, for lack of better term, cool. And does anybody remember what Roy Williams says about cool people? I paraphrase: "Roy Williams never met anybody that was "cool" who was worth a dickens or darned". Or something like that. I'm going to go out on a limb and just speculate that, if that's the case, A LOT of people don't care for Roy, including Self. Who likes a holier than thou, judgmental know it all? My semi-mancrush on Rick Pitino topped out after he said what was on everyone's mind and needled Roy about the home court advantage in the East Regional. What did Roy do? "Who, me? It's not my fault, what's this gosh darned fella here a talkin' akin to?" To all who have followed this man's career, it was extremely satisfying for Pitino to call him out, even if it was predictable that Roy would go into denial and rationalize it away, like having the regional in Carolina was a BAD thing.

OF COURSE Roy feels hurt and tortured about the way his time at KU is remembered and how he left. In his mind, Roy Williams handled it perfectly, and it's other people's short-sightedness that has screwed up all the good memories FOR HIM. He's on this line of reasoning that "Roy Williams gave everything he had to those good people for 15 years, and it's just sad" -- which is just code for "I need all the love in the world and KU fans are being jerks for not returning in kind". Well, KU fans gave all they had to you for 15 years. And after holding your hand through all your personal idiosyncrasies, defending you after your spectacular failures in drunken conversations around the globe, and being patient with the constant changes of heart, you just snuck out the back door and that was that. Without knowing it, apparently, Roy is being socio-pathologically arrogant if he thinks people are just going to say "thank you for everything" and keep a head shot of him on their mantle.

We say sports don't matter, but for Kansas basketball fans, IT MATTERS. KU basketball is part of the fabric of life, the swell of the seasons, and often one of the few things that marks time and, if we are lost or confused or in the midst of personal crisis and adversity, tells us who we are, and whence we came. It's not something that you can just say "oops" to when you screw up and act like it's the fans' fault for not understanding. If the bad blood exists, and it's not Roy's fault, well, then it sure as hell isn't our fault, either.

Lost in all this is also the fact that for all the good times -- does any one person from the media want to talk about the friggin' legendary heartbreak we had to deal with when Roy Williams was the coach? Anyone? It's kind of weird to me that after four years Bill Self was getting all the "he can't win, he's a choker" talk when KU suffered the blows dealt during Roy's tenure. Some of the all-time epic face plants of the modern era were with Ol' Roy tossing his sport coat around the sidelines: Rhode Island, Arizona, UTEP, Virginia in KC, the mismanagement of the Syracuse game and the 2003 Final Four, and the annual sobfest that occurred. The whole thing, EVERY YEAR, got a little embarrassing, and, the worst part is he never finished the job. We were all left dangling with that bitter taste of his shenanigans hijacking a National Championship run in 2003. But the whole time, when Roy Williams was having such a hard time being Roy Williams, guess who was there, to massage his feet and fire athletic directors and shovel money into his home and accommodate his golf game? KU basketball fans. And now he's begging and crying for us to love him again? How much love can a fan base give one person? Now we have to repair our dignity to the nation because YOU can't get over it?

That's why I found myself pleasantly surprised about how wonderful the Georgetown collapse was to watch last year. It was just perfect, like looking back on any other relationship, to see him in a familiar situation but dragging somebody else with him: not calling timeouts even though the game was getting out of hand, wiping off his glasses like a stressed out geometry teacher who can't understand his own material, and letting it all slip away so dramatically and tragically you wonder if he WANTED it to be this way, and then boo-hooing to the media after it was all over. The whole episode was exactly like looking at an ex-girlfriend make an ass of themselves with the same **** she used to do with you, but now someone else has to deal with it -- a Carolina friend of mine was just SHOCKED about the way it all happened. I wanted to pat him on the head and say "awwww...it's your first time!". Instead, I just said "yep, we had to deal with that **** for fifteen ******* years".

So I understand why Roy whisked away in the night after making a weepy circus of the 2003 Final Four. Basketball is a business, he wanted to go home and all that crap, etc. etc. But just because I understand his motives for taking the Carolina job, doesn't mean I think he handled it like anything other than a self-involved, self-pitying, woe is me jack ass. Nothing that happened surprised me, but I was disappointed nonetheless that all this time, he deceived so many people into believing that this was forever. If it was a marriage, you throw a drink in their face, call the sharks in, give the ring back and go to therapy and find someone new. And one of the most passionate fan bases in American sport is getting chided for having ill will towards this man? We are supposed to just say "oh well" and "he really cared about us, too" and "it wasn't Roy Williams' fault, it's ours"? That's ********.

Put another way, when John Doe does wonderful things for John Doe's family, and says "this isn't about John Doe, it's about John Doe's players and family" -- believe me, it's about John Doe. Roy lives in a world of hypocrisy and denial that only the classic egomaniac can live in. And when a friend or family member, who you may love, who may be a "great guy", pulls this **** over 15 years and then says "What did Roy Williams do wrong? Why is everyone so upset with Roy Williams?", don't you just start rolling your eyes after awhile? I did. Hell, his routine was old before he snuck on a plane to Chapel Hill in the middle of the night like a little pansy who didn't want to get yelled at by the cool kids.

No one should feel bad about hating this guy. If you do, you have good gosh darn dolly reason. And let's remember that when Carolina loses this weekend, and the blunders and inexplicable nature of an epic loss is still fresh, and all those teary Roy Williams post-game press conferences begin, remember that those tears are NOT for Roy Williams' players, or Roy Williams' school, or Roy Williams' fans. Those Roy Williams tears are for Roy Williams.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

2 comments:

Dirty Davey said...

Incidentally, this knack of creating a cult of personality that legendary coaches have is one of the problems I have, if you can call it that, with Bill Self. By all accounts, Self is a pretty normal dude. He doesn't whine, he doesn't indulge in self-pity, he isn't full of himself in press conferences, he doesn't make the game about how smart he is or how hard he works or anything like that. He views himself as a coach with players at a big-time school. And sometimes, SOMETIMES, I'd prefer a smug, arrogant controlling and petulant ******* like Howland, or a neurotic shuckster like Calipari, or an insecure emotional train wreck like Roy, than a truly humble, take the high road, it's not about me, we just work hard and compete and hope for the best, Bill Self.

Well maybe you'll get one after Self heads back to OK State.

The Truth said...

Excellent. I hear Larry Brown is "bored." Nobody chases co-eds the way Larry used to. Bring Back Larry indeed!

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