In case you haven't noticed, society has done a 180 in the last few decades.
The "we" generation switched over to the "me" generation quite a while ago. If the picture of Rosie the Riveter came out today, chances are the caption wouldn't say "We Can Do It" it would say, "I Can Do It."
Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, chat rooms, cell phones, Instagram and the Internet in general -- all these things have given people a voice they feel is just as important as anyone else's and an inflated sense of self-worth. Try saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," nowadays and you'll be met with a scoff. The phrase "I'ma get me mine" has become so in vogue, it's become a mantra.
The age of enlightenment has met the age of entitlement.
Coaches can still use the old adage, "There is no 'I' in team" all they want, but more and more it's falling on deaf ears as the next crop of athletes comes through the doors. At least that's what we've been hearing from those who've been around the college game the longest.
Back on Jan. 10, longtime Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido gave a speech at Cal State Fullerton's annual Dinner With The Titans. The one line that received the most applause from his many quotable quips that night?
"The biggest thing wrong with college baseball today is entitlement."
It was a very bold statement that got a tidal wave of support that night. You could hear an occasional "Yeah," or "That's right," thrown in there, too.
Garrido was serious. He has been around college baseball all his life and has seen the gradual but certain changes in players' attitudes since he first started coaching in the early '70s.
He gave a perfect example to explain his statement.
"In 1975, my first year at Cal State Fullerton, we made it to the College World Series," he said. "We had a guy named Dave Robb who had played second base all season and when we got to Omaha we moved him to first base. He told me, 'Whatever helps the team coach.'
"If I did that today, the player would look at me and say, 'Are you kidding me? I've got four select team coaches, three professional scouts and my mailman who used to play Triple-A baseball telling me that my future is at second base. What are you doing to me?'"
Those words certainly convey how Garrido perceives his players. In 1975, his Cal State Fullerton team didn't have a locker room, did all its own grounds work and did everything short of taking tickets at the gate. They were playing baseball at a commuter school and had a hard-working mentality to everything. When the Titans went to the regionals at USC that year, they took one look around the locker room, saw how well-appointed it was, and decided they didn't want to use it.
"They told me they didn't want to use this locker room," Garrido said. "And why not, they didn't have a locker room at their home field, so they didn't want one now. That was the kind of blue-collar mentality that they had. They didn't want anything given to them."
That weekend, Garrido's players had to pack their own bags, make their own lunches and even drive their own cars from Orange County. By contrast, today he's the head coach of a program that is part of an athletic department that made over $165 million last year in Austin, Texas. That's a long way, figuratively and literally, from Fullerton, California.
"Our first year in division one at Cal State Fullerton, we had a budget of $6,000," Garrido says. "Our players and our coaches didn't even know how to spell the word entitlement. We all came from absolute un-entitled positions in life. But it worked for us. It totally worked for us."
Today, at any major college baseball program, such hardships would be unheard of. Players come to college having played on traveling squads, all-star teams and select teams. They have been told their entire lives how great they are, knowing that million dollar paydays lie ahead if their skills are as good as people keep telling them.
"These guys are given everything they need," Garrido said, while pointing to his players warming up before their game at Oklahoma State. "So you have to work at some core values and you have to enforce them. Everybody would like to be born as the king of a small country, however it didn't work out for Arthur and it sure as hell didn't work for me. I tell all my teams that I had to settle for coming out of the housing projects, but it was up to me to reinvent myself. For some of these players nowadays it takes a long time for them to figure that out."
Rice coach Wayne Graham knows exactly where Garrido is coming from. Being a former Texas player himself in 1956 and 1957, Graham had none of the amenities that Longhorn players have now. it was bare-bones baseball back then, even at a national power like Texas. But he has seen where some of the bigger baseball programs are now, and how marquee players get the royal treatment.
"At some of those big schools like Texas, or the programs in the SEC or ACC, if a player throws down a towel, there is probably somebody there making a diving stab to catch it before it hits the floor," Graham joked.
But it's not just a big-program/small-program difference. Graham and Garrido have had front-row seats to the drastic social landscape change over the years.
"In the era when Augie and I grew up, children were supposed to be seen and not heard," Graham said with a grin. "You weren't supposed to aggravate your parents and you weren't supposed to question them in any way. But I think it's also better in some ways nowadays because it encourages more creativity. I mean, it's up to us as coaches to stop that where it should stop, but their entitlement issues are not all bad."
Graham said he tries to get his players in tune with how fortunate they are in this day and age, and how they should appreciate the change in climate for teenagers and young adults, because the world has become so different.
"I tell them that in World War II, kids that were 16 and 17 years old were lying about their age so they could get into the Army and fight in the war," he said. "There were 16-year-old kids who died on Iwo Jima so that you could have this lifestyle you have now with your nice locker rooms and using the best equipment. Can you imagine kids nowadays making a commitment like that? Probably not many would."
Over at Florida State, Mike Martin has been the coach since 1981 and was an assistant there under Woody Woodward and Dick Howser, all the way back to the early '70s. He has seen his share of players who came from privileged backgrounds and plenty of ones who came from the hardscrabble side of life, as well. Although their attitudes and expectations have definitely changed over the years, Martin's focus is adapting to the player and giving him the proper kind of encouragement and discipline. Keep in mind, this is a man who had a Heisman Trophy winner as his saves leader out of the bullpen last year, and who also once had a player named Deion Sanders.
"You definitely have to approach today's players a little differently than back when I started," Martin said. "I try to look at a young man's background and try to understand things better now. You can't jump to conclusions with players these days. You have to be patient with most of them. But yes, there are also some who come in pretty high on the hog and you have to get rid of that entitlement issue in a hurry."
And how does one go about doing that?
"The main thing you have to get across to each and every player is that it's a privilege to play this game," Graham said. "They have got to learn to appreciate that."
As is typical with Garrido and his zen master ways, he reminds his players all the time that what is important is not the nice amenities and rock star status, it's the game that adds to their experience in life.
"The players have a hard time understanding this and they need to be reminded constantly that we have a choice in what our destiny is going to be," he said. "And the game is going to provide us opportunity. Be thankful for that. Be humbled by that. This is a game you love and care about. It's all about learning to get the excitement out of it and learning how to deal with a mini crisis. Because in life you are going to have a lot of bigger crises to deal with. That's what makes baseball such a great metaphor for life."