How fitting that, for his last lesson, the great educator Bobby Knight taught respect by manhandling someone.
How fitting that he explained protocol with profanity.
How fitting that his last act as Indiana University basketball coach had nothing to do with basketball.
For 29 years, Bobby Knight slathered abuse with so many wins and graduation statistics that it began to resemble integrity.
His bosses were fooled. His neighbors were fooled. Even his critics were occasionally fooled.
For 29 years, his defense was as loud and constant as a red sweater.
"Sure, he's tough. But his kids graduate. He doesn't cheat. He turns boys into men. What's wrong with that?"
On Sunday, in agreeing to stop feeding the hand that bit them, firing a man who should have been fired months ago, Indiana University officials finally admitted the paradox that is Bobby Knight.
His kids graduate, but from what? An environment where they are taught that might is right, force wins, life is best approached by bullying it?
He doesn't cheat the NCAA, but what about the law? How many times would his actions on the court or in the locker room be considered assault on the streets? And this is preferable to giving a kid a sweatsuit?
And, OK, so he turns boys into men.
Yet last week outside Assembly Hall, when his confrontation with a 19-year-old student broke the no-tolerance policy and ended his Indiana career, who was the boy and who was the man?
A kid called him by his last name.
"Hey, what's up Knight?" student Kent Harvey said.
All those Knight defenders who claim the coach was set up -- and sadly, there are many of them -- feel that was an obvious taunt.
If so, then every minute somebody in this country is being taunted, because every minute there are kids saying "What's up" to adults and calling them by their last names.
If that was a taunt, then I am taunted constantly as I walk into college sporting events around town.
I normally offer the original reply of, "Hey, what's up yourself?"
These are just kids being nice. I certainly have never felt the need to grab anybody and lecture them on not using my last name.
Then again, I don't have that license.
Knight obviously thought he did.
That's what this is about, somebody finally taking the license away, somebody finally saying that abuse is abuse, no matter where it finishes in the standings.
This was for the youth league baseball coach who causes shivers in his pitchers by screaming, "Relax! Relax!"
This was for the youth league football coach who tells the parent he wants to have fun, then makes the fat kids hit each other until they're no longer fat.
This was for all the paradoxes in a country filled with youth sports where tears and terror are disguised as teaching. The most celebrated one has fallen.
Not that Indiana University should win any medals for bringing him down.
Knight should have been fired last May, when his practice assault on Neil Reed was proven on videotape.
Indiana President Myles Brand, pressured by a conservative state where "sparing the rod" is only a fishing term, should have known this "zero tolerance" gimmick wouldn't last. It was like placing a zero-growl mandate on a pit bull.
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