This column appears in the March 22 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Note to readers: My math says this column puts me over one million published words. And that doesn't count books (No. 11 coming up in May), screenplays (two), sonnets, ransom notes and quilts. This is one million too many for many citizens, but the fact remains.
Ironically, this is also my last column for The Mag. I'm going to try my hand at a weekly 90-second essay on "SportsCenter" beginning this spring. I'll still write longer pieces for The Mag, write my ESPN.com column, host "Homecoming," cover golf for ESPN and ABC and anchor "SportsCenter" once in a while.
Oh, and no way I'm giving up the flügelhorn.
I am not generally a spiteful man. I pat toddlers' haircuts, donate to the glee club and mostly greet the world with open arms.
But when I think of coach Greg Wise of Houston's Yates High School, I become darker than Johnny Cash's closet.
The things I would like to do to Coach Wise would curl an executioner's toes. For starters, I'd like to see him dipped in seal butter and dropped into a polar bear's cage.
Coach Wise is the hammerhead who believes it's his right to toast other basketball teams by 100 points. Sometimes more. He thumped Lee High School this season by 135 points, 170-35. Wise's team was up at the half, 100-12. And full-court pressed to the very end!
Wise is to sportsmanship what tsunamis are to beach chairs. So far this season, he's beaten teams by 135, 115, 99 (twice), 98, 90 and 88 points. Trying to get to 100 points in a crushing of Westbury, his players intentionally fouled to stop the clock.
I'd like to clock him.
If Wise doesn't stop, somebody's going to get hurt. In a Feb. 20 home game, Wise refused to pull his foot off the accelerator in a 132-68 fricasseeing of Booker T. Washington. Nobody likes to be humiliated, and this includes fans. Like at some of Yates' games, there was fighting. This time it happened in the parking lot afterward. Shots were fired, though nobody was hurt. This time.
He's beaten teams by 135, 115 and 99 -- twice.
What's it going to take for Houston Independent School District officials to stop Wise? Or suspend him? What's it going to take before Yates principal Ronald Mumphery grows a pair and disciplines his coach? Somebody dying? "These are tough kids from a tough part of town," says Jacques Armant, coach at Lee, which also lost to Yates by 99. "Beatings like this can turn out to be real dangerous."
At the very least, USA Today ought to remove Yates from its national rankings -- the school is No. 1 -- as a statement about basic sports decency. That'd be the un-Wise thing to do.
This is not war. This is not
the pros. There's no bonus for belittling young men in front of their parents and girlfriends. These kids are getting their pants yanked down in front of the whole playground. They don't deserve it.
"A lot of my kids went into a kind of depression after [losing by 135]," says Armant. "They thought the game was over, but when you turn on your radio and every deejay is saying how you got beat for an all-time record, it hurts. I took one kid home, and he said, 'Coach, can you please turn the radio off? I can't take it anymore.'"
On second thought, I'd like Wise to spend a day as a speed bump in the Lee parking lot.
I was unable to reach Wise or Principal Mumphery, but Wise has defended himself by saying he practices pressing and trapping, and that doing anything else during the game would be bad coaching. He's said that all 15 of his players -- 11 of them seniors -- play. "The [third string] deserves the chance to play hard and compete too," Wise has said.
Yes, those kids deserve to play hard and compete -- every day in scrimmages against the best team in Texas. In games against schools with no chance, they need to back off. Basketball isn't Greg Wise's personal vanity mirror. He needs to say, "We're going to work on passing. Anyone shoots and they're running stairs at the Astrodome."
But Wise won't say that because Wise is about Wise. He's after records. He wants teenage scalps. He tried to break the record for most 100-point games
in a row (and failed). He did set the state record for points in one game (170).
And I wouldn't be surprised if he goes for the national record of 211. If he gets it, I hope they add an *:
*Set by Yates High School, Classless of 2010.
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