The Coach, The Cowboy, and the Monkey

I’m bored and all the news is about Trump, so I’m going to write a long post about something that doesn’t matter to anyone. But I think it’s funny!

I’ve never been a fan of my college, but I stuck with it and got my degree from them. Why not? Life is horrible.

Since I graduated, I haven’t been involved with my college in any meaningful way. I kept in contact with a few of my professors, I have some Facebook friends who were classmates, but that’s all. Fuck that place. But I have maintained a presence in the various fanpages and groups on Facebook that service alumni. I mainly do this because I love it when something bad happens, like a classmate dies or the college is in trouble. It really kind of ties my day together whenever I read about someone else’s misfortune and, holy shit, Facebook is like getting a cake delivered to you by the Schadenfreude Princess every fucking morning.

As I write this, I’ve been gleefully watching a flame war boiling over in my college’s main alumni group. Apparently, one of the beloved old coaches got in a tiff with a younger couch. I don’t think we can call it a lover’s quarrel, though I always wonder when PE coaches are involved.

The younger coach challenged the old timer’s power or something…I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t really care enough to deconstruct what really happened. I do know, though, that the college acquired a new president some time back who’s a rowdy cowboy retiree (he even goes by the name “Buck”) and he’s spent the last few years systematically dismantling the liberal arts aspect of the college and purging the old guard professors. I provide that background to try and explain why people freaked out about some old coach getting fired. My old school is well beyond the “first they came for the English Department, and I said nothing…” phase.

The writing has been on the wall for, you know, five years, and the old coach correctly deduced that he was on the chopping block, but seemed to not heed the warning signs. He wrote an unintentionally hilarious memo to express his general concern and/or outrage. The memo builds and builds for three pages and the coach ends it by quoting Springsteen and daring the administration to fire him.

So, the next day, they fired him.

He shared the memo with his whole track and field team, so it’s been publicly posted online, and I include links to it here for your reading pleasure (click for the large versions…do I still have to say that in 2016?):
willshaw1
willshaw2willshaw3

The ripples hit just a couple days later as everyone rallied behind the coach who had been so cruelly dismissed despite the fact he had served the school since before electricity. He organized his team, and past students, allegedly, to start a massive email campaign. My old college breeds a certain subset of humanity, so this campaign took the form of internet bullying and outright threats. A bunch of poor administrators checked their email on Monday morning to find more vitriol than the Trump campaign has produced. Across the alumni community, there are many, many outraged people saying outrageous things. But I’m going to focus on just one exchange because (a) it was the only one posted with a public privacy setting and (b) It made me laugh my ass off.

On the alumni group page, the kid everyone used to despise emerged as the very vocal leader of the outrage. If you knew him, you know he couldn’t have possibly ever been involved in anything sporty at all, but, again, this thing with the coach may have just been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

And, again, who cares? So this asshole attacks the administration online, and confronts them armed with the letter from the coach. Fine. Whatever. But where the whole story goes wrong is when Buck replies. Now, I think 100% of people reading would have sided with the college if they were reasonable, because Mr. Asshole is a horrible, horrible human being. But Buck was not reasonable. In fact, he was just this side of insane.

Buck’s reply to the initial salvo is below. The bold parts are mine so that people who have no patience for blog posts longer than 100 words can zero in on the Comedy Gold.

February 22, 2016
Dear _____,

There are still those of us who recall when the only way to communicate with others at a distance was by a wall-mounted wooden telephone with a crank, by telegraph or by posting a letter in the mail. [Don’t start your letters with “I’m 150 years old.” I have to tell writers this all the time — know your audience! –nacho] Now of course, our communication is mobile, instant, constant and worldwide.

Never before in history have we had such access to information and other people with neither time nor distance limitation. What a gift to live in such an age! The challenge of course is how we shall use it. We are more connected than ever before. The opportunity for meaningful and positive discourse has never been greater.

Yet so is the chance also – thanks to Mark Zuckerberg – to use this newfound capacity for gossip, innuendo, insult – even an immediate rush to judgement, lodging unfounded and unkind electronic accusations that can literally destroy another human being [People’s actions are Zuckerberg’s fault? If there were no Zuckerberg, we’d still all be online making fun of you. This is a WordPress blog, this doesn’t involve Zuckerberg. Also, minus 13 points for incorrect use of literally. –nacho], and diminish ourselves in the process. As the author of Matthew affirms in The Message translation: ‘The simple moral fact is that words kill.’ [I don’t actually know what this means. A Bible reference? Are you using the Junior Boy Scout’s Bible For Remedial Readers or something? –nacho]

As one of the College’s best friends and wise counselors wrote me on Saturday morning after receiving a Facebook posting:

Many people who lack the full scope of a situation often are very quick to Monday-morning quarterback. They truly – in their heart of hearts – believe they know better than the leaders who are charged with making difficult decisions. You couple that with the age of social media, when people can “publish” anything without regard to truth, and what you have are very biased misrepresentations of situations.

Some within the College family – fortunately a very few – experienced a sampling of such Facebook vitriol over the weekend. But just as Easter Morn follows Good Friday, so also can much good emerge from such an experience: [So, FYI, Easter morning does not follow Good Friday. You have Holy Saturday to deal with first. We really need to fix your Bible. –nacho]

The opportunity to express understanding for the feelings and views of those affected.
The chance to listen to others’ concerns with an attitude of simple kindness.
The willingness to demonstrate one’s humanity by travelling the high road of civility and respect.

The discovery by a new friend of the College who shared a lesson from his pre-internet youth: If you don’t have something good to say, then don’t say it at all.

And finally, as a wise-beyond-her-years younger member of the College staff wrote on Sunday morning: “Before we assume, learn the facts. Before we judge, understand why.”

In this age of instant electronic communication, that’s the message for us all: Before we assume, learn the facts. Before we judge, understand why.

Create a wonderful week.

President G.T. ‘Buck’ Smith

Um… Mom! There’s something wrong with grandpa!

Mr. Asshole replies. He’s offended. More to the point, his letter illustrates how my college didn’t actually provide a lick of education. All errors are his:

Dear Buck:

I am following this on going controversy with the college and I have to tell you as a alumni to the school I am highly offended. But I’m more offended by your letter and the tone that It implies and it is very preachy and rude and very condescending in its tone.

You have turned me off as a alumni doner to the college and I think

You are doing a Hugh disservice to the college by Writing such things. I think the point of Facebook is to express thoughts about topics both positive and negative and free expression is critical to evolution of positive endeavors. If the college asks the alumni to support the school with donations maybe you should think before putting words to paper.

Old Buck takes the trollbait, of course.

Dear ____:

Oh my, I certainly had no intent to offend, or to be ‘preachy and rude and very condescending.’[Perhaps you can quote your jackass version of the Bible a few more times to help clear this up? –nacho] Please accept my apologies.

I quite agree: it is our privilege – and responsibility – ‘to express thoughts about topics both positive and negative and free expression is critical to evolution of positive endeavors.’ But I also believe in civility and rational discourse. Much of what I have witnessed and received in recent days is reflective of what I referenced: ‘gossip, innuendo, insult – even an immediate rush to judgement, lodging unfounded and unkind electronic accusations that can literally destroy another human being, and diminish ourselves in the process.’

While you addressed what I said in the Monday Letter and not the issue that initiated all this, I feel compelled to at least offer you something of the background to give you context for what I wrote to which you so strongly object.

You understand of course that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on personnel issues or circumstances relating to them.[*proceeds to comment on personnel issues.* –nacho] What I can say, and what you may not realize from what has been communicated to you is that from the very beginning, Will Shaw was in on the discussions and decision to expand our athletic program to include a men’s and women’s track and field program. In fact, as he wrote me as recently as last Friday, he was the “first to contact Jason Pyles (the coach we appointed) concerning the track opening and later to enthusiastically recommend him for the position.”

This was especially fitting. And I was much gratified since this new effort holds great promise for the College, and is due in no small measure to what Will has put in place over the years through the cross country program. This is reflected in part in the many lives he has so deeply touched.

It had been our hope and intent all along that Will, and assistant coach Derek Bolyard, would be part of the expanded program by continuing to coach with the men’s and women’s cross country teams. But an inappropriate action late Thursday evening left me no choice but to decide – with much regret – to discontinue their part-time employment with the College.

Rest assured the decision was based on just two factors: 1. What I believe to be in the best interest of our students; and 2. What I perceive to be in the long-term best interest of the College.

Your comment that ‘you have turned me off as an alumni donor to the college’ must have happened a long time ago. And for that too I’m sorry. Heaven knows, I have tried to be appropriate and positive in my communications and conversations with you. It frankly has been a great disappointment to me that during these past 8 years you have not seen fit to continue your financial support of your Alma Mater in any form whatsoever. Especially given that in the preceding 10 years, you were among the most generous young alumni of the College. Maybe circumstances have made support impossible, and that I completely understand. But it still hurts that I have had to go it alone without your help. [Holy Jumping What the Fucks!–nacho]

Especially when one considers that Joni and I have given these autumn years of our lives (willingly and without compensation) to try to preserve and enhance your college. There are those in a position to know – better than either of us – who maintain that your Alma Mater would have closed by now had we not recovered from the conditions of 2008. Diminished then by deficits, debt, low enrollment, deferred maintenance and waning quality, now at least, your degree has enhanced value. Please consider that my gift to you.

I trust all is well with you. Please know I wish only good for you. Best regards, Buck

G. T. “Buck” Smith

I was astounded to read that money-grubbing part! And what’s with the bizarre guilt trip? I think my head would have spun if I got that letter.

Mr. Asshole’s head did spin. Buck pulled out the self-sacrifice card, so Mr. Asshole took that theme to the stratosphere. I’ve taken the liberty of breaking up his block of text. (Tell me, why does everyone who starts a conversation with “My family/I am very wealthy” end it with moaning about how bad off and poor they are?)

Buck:

Since you didn’t know my giving history off the top of your head You should also know that I have established a life trust with the college which I wish to cancel effective as of today.

My family is very wealthy and the college likely would have received a significant gift in the future.

As well since you don’t have a crystal ball let me explain a little bit about my life in the last eight years. I lost a job paying over $100,000 a year in 2010 the same year I had open heart surgery and almost lost my Mother to cancer. Then I had to file a bankruptcy and lost my house and was sued three times by my home owners association for over $50,000 and in 2014 I almost died from a pulmonary embalm or blood clot on my lungs. [Welcome to Earth, buddy. –nacho]

I have struggled for work and I work three jobs to support myself and my partner. So with all do respect the college never lost my support but you have now.

I am glad that you felt the need to look up my past giving history. I believe support and love for a college isn’t shown by dollars buck since graduation in 1995 I served briefly on the NAC and have been back to the college more times then I can count. I was planning on coming down in October to show my husband where I went to school. But again why waste my time.

Regarding the issue you should know that people have access to information and your internal dealings with these two people are out there and people know what happened. [Um…a couple of old employees got fired by their boss. I think that’s happened 789 times since I started typing this comment.–nacho]

To your comment about serving etc if it’s a strain on your life with your wife then retire and enjoy your life together. I do not accept your apologize and wish you all the best.

Please have someone contact me about canceling the trust I mentioned.

LOLlerderby!

Someone else finally responds for Buck and ends the conversation (thankfully).

Dear ______:
Thanks for your follow.
It has indeed been a rough go for you. Hopefully that is all behind you now. As I said, “Maybe circumstances have made support impossible, and that I completely understand.” And I do.

As you requested, I shall have someone be in touch with you regarding your wish to cancel your estate provision for the College.

I truly mean “I wish only good for you.” Best regards, Buck

The end! Or…is it? (It is, because I turned off notifications so I don’t have to keep seeing Mr. Asshole’s big scary face in my news feed.)

(Note: All quoted text, and the letters, were posted to a public group. I edited out names and ALL THE CONTACT INFO that these idiots also posted to the public group. As of the morning of 2/24/16, I tested the public availability of all of the above while logged out of FB.)

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