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A Brief Aside

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Readers interested enough to brave the depths of message boards and certain blogs have probably noticed for a while now the habit of refering to a popular boss by full name as "Coach X," as in "Coach Nick Saban," "Coach Mark Richt," etc. This seems to be an overwhelmingly Southern phenomenon (we still have a thing for authority figures), but not exclusively, since "Coach Rick Neuheisel" has become the entrenched style at previously coach hating Bruins Nation. You can get a one-line summary of the difference between a regular coach and a Coach in this comment by a beleaguered Georgia Tech partisan after the Jackets' loss in the Humanitarian Bowl: "The Chan Gailey `me' will be replaced with the Coach Paul Johnson `we' and we will have players who will be held accountable." No doubt - Chan, after all, is just Chan, but his successor is Coach.


Yea, my children, I commandeth not thy reverence.
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It's a sort of all-or-nothing designation: the transition from 'Coach' to 'Doofus' is destined to be a small one.

By itself, this is annoying enough, and good evidence to my theory that coaches these days are really politicians. The only other professions wherein people are casually referred to by some predicate title are the life-and-death jobs - doctors, soldiers, politicians and reverends (you used to see `professor,' too; not any more, the ivory tower bastards). And even then, never in any reputable form of print. Newsletters, maybe, and press releases; certainly never in any newspaper or magazine or any other publication worth its salt except as an introductory title, after which the reference always reverts to last name only. This is for good reason: a person is not their job, even if some people define them exclusively in that context, and no honest assessment sees a person as a job. "Coach" is a title of authority for the people being coached, but for an independent observer to permanently affix a job title to someone's name is absurd deference. In some contexts, the life-and-death businesses, it might be dangerous. Here, it's just obnoxious.

Fine, though, whatever. Most fans don't consider themselves independent observers. They identify strongly with their programs, and it wouldn't be fun if they didn't. So if it furthers the emotional bond to Bulldog/Bruin/Buckeye Nation call Les Miles Coach Les Miles, so be it. But this business with the initials - CLM, CMR, CNS, CRN - this sort of brainless groveling sends blood spurting out of my ears. As if "Coach" was on the birth certificate. This is a sure sign of an opinion that can't be trusted: we may be talking about message boards and openly biased blogs here, but all any writer has is critical honesty; when you lose perspective to the extent that man becomes one with the job, and with everything you think the job should embody, you've forfeited honesty for loyalty. Which makes you a press release. Which makes you, under certain circumstances, inherently a liar.

For a counter example, take Brian Cook (among many others), a rabid Michigan fan who never lets his desire for Michigan's success cloud his judgment of the people trusted with it. He respects coaches and players but is brutally honest about their performance. He may not be right, but he can be trusted to tell the truth as he sees it - I read MGoBlog on a near-daily basis, but if he ever typed "CRR," I'd ban that url from my browser forever. This critical detachment is still true of most other blogs and of virtually all mainstream outlets, particularly the ones people actually read; Every Day Should Be Saturday is currently the pinnacle of the form because it has no respect for anyone or any particular code of ethics. It's also true that even the most partisan Kool-Aid drinkers are fickle and won't maintain their fawning deference for long in less-than-ideal circumstances. But I sense the cult of `Coach' as Ingrained Personality Trait is growing, and I need to articulate that particular frustration before it cost me money on laptop repair.

This is not an important complaint. It's just a complaint. That is all.

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Full disclosure: my dad was a coach. The argument is rhetorical.