Stallings Out (of Line)
It’s a little late, but I wanted to share a few thoughts about Kevin Stallings’ post-game misstep following his team’s victory over rival Tennessee. I think that many people may disagree with me, but I welcome any constructive commentary. I mean, we have this handy “Comments” section right below. Please, feel free.
If you don’t know, following Vandy’s 73-65 win over Tennessee, Vandy player, Wade Baldwin IV took the occasion to clap in the face of some Tennessee players. Bad sportsmanship? You bet. Felonious crime? Not even close.
Stallings, after maybe (or maybe not) being told by a Tennessee assistant, proceeded to track Baldwin IV down, drop a series of “f” and “mf” bombs, including calling Baldwin IV an “MFer.” For his finale, Stallings screamed that he would kill Baldwin.
I sort of figured that Vanderbilt (prestigious Vandy of all schools) would be forced to do something in the way of public reprimand. Should Stallings be fined, suspended, fired? I’m not a judge, so I am leaving that one to the professionals, but I feel something had to be done. Yet, nada. Stallings has since apologized, saying he handled things incorrectly.
Yet, Many People Defend Stallings
Here is where I don’t understand. We think Stallings’ behavior was okay…justified even? Really? Maybe I need to reboot my brain and re-listen. Here are some defenses I’ve heard and my rebuttal.
• Stallings was championing good sportsmanship—I don’t disagree that Baldwin was being a (Gatsby voice) right-poor old sport, old sport. But do you not see the irony? Stallings’ sportsmanship was [pick a high number] times worse than Baldwin’s. Where in the sports book of etiquette does it say that calling a kid an “MFer” and threatening to kill him is in the best interest of sport’s fairness? Keep looking: it’s not in there.
• The kid knew what he was signing up for—Oh, did he? Kevin Stallings may be a tough, gritty coach. Baldwin IV probably had, in fact, seen that on display before coming to Vandy, but does anyone sign up to be threatened like that? You signed up to work in a school, in a factory, in a hospital, etc. We all have things we find unsettling or unsatisfying. How would it feel if you felt slighted and someone’s retort was, “You signed up for it”? I’m guessing it would frustrate any of us to no end. Just because Kevin Stallings is emotional doesn’t give him the right to threaten bodily harm.
• It was right after a game…the heat of battle—True. But “battle?” It’s a game. Sure the NCAA is a lucrative business and people make millions, but it’s not a real war. Games are games. A battle? Let’s please slow down a minute and grab just a hint of perspective.
• Baldwin said he wasn’t upset with Stallings—But, wait. What’s he supposed to say? Stallings holds Baldwin IV’s future scholarship, playing time, practice sprints, in the pea of his whistle. Baldwin IV is pretty powerless. He can transfer, and then sit out a year. Doesn’t sound too great. Also, it’s Vanderbilt, one of the top academic schools in the nation. Think Baldwin wants to lose his ride there? I wouldn’t. If I were Baldwin III, however, I would feel the need to pay Coach a visit. He wouldn’t be able to make me run sprints.
There are other points to be made that would take this conversation into a different direction. What if Baldwin had said the same to Stallings after the game? Would Stallings have reacted differently if he had known cameras were catching his every word? What if Stallings had said the same to an opposing player? Does Stallings’ apology and Baldwin’s acceptance change any of this? Will it happen again? Hypothetically, how would we have reacted if it had been Matthew Mitchell or Geno Auriemma yelling at one of their players?
But then, there is my favorite Stallings’ apologist excuse ever. Stallings told Baldwin that he’d told him “a hundred times.” This leads us to think that Stallings was finally fed up, that Baldwin had obviously been acting up numerous times before. Seems to me that Stallings should have known what HE was signing up for.