06 February 2008

Hey Knight

King Kaufman gives the dear departed General a well-deserved one-finger salute.

The Knight chorus -- which, it's important to note, includes most of his former players -- will go into iambic pentameter about discipline and molding young men. But who was more undisciplined than Bob Knight?

If he had an ounce of self-control, the slightest ability or desire to tame his own impulses, his career would be ending not with his slinking off in the middle of the season in a relative basketball backwater, but as the much-respected coach of a perennial power, if not Indiana than some other giant in the Big Ten, ACC or Big East

If Bob Knight had a player with the same lack of self-discipline that Bob Knight the coach had, the kid wouldn't have made it to Thanksgiving of his freshman year.

Convicted felons aside, Bob Knight is probably the single famous sports figure I'd least want my kids to grow up to be like.

For authoritarian sociopaths like Knight, however, the hypocrisy is a feature, not a bug; a fact Knight tacitly acknowledged throughout his career. He had paid his dues to society, and now society had no sway. This is how paternalism recycles itself; by ensuring each new generation of the repressed resents its masters enough to empty out the pent-up frustration on their successors.

Knight's defenders have often claimed that his massive list of accomplishments has accorded him space beyond the moral law, a curious invocation of relativism from people normally not persuaded by it. But they realize admitting Knight's great achievements amount to winning basketball games would be vulgar, and they know any ordinary coach would have been sacked long ago for Knight's embarrassing shenanigans. So they point instead to his graduation rate and speak in lofty terms about crafting perfect masculine icons, as if this somehow would have justified his employ if those banners weren't hanging from the ceiling. But even this is damning with faint credit; in the flaming degraded pit of the college sports industry, Knight was the rare figure who did what should be the bare minimum. He was also filled with sneering antipathy toward the egg-headed academics who wanted to reform the system.

But in the world of late capitalism, there is no competition too trivial, no platform where refined masculine warriors locked in a brutal contest to slay their competitors is irrelevant, perhaps Bob Knight is an American hero. One who broke a cardinal rule of jockdom by quitting on his team in midseason. To the very last, nothing ever applied to him.