Norwood gives exercise in power of negative language


(Editor’s note: This column contains harsh language, although it has been edited for print.)

Woody Hayes, 1978. Mike Rice, 2013. Bob Knight, countless times. Scott Norwood, 2014.

These collegiate head coaches are perfect examples of a community in which violent coach-to-player communication, verbally and physically, is the norm in the search for making better men out of such little maggots.

Yes, the society where athletes do “war” and “fight” for their fellow man. Where victory in such figurative combat doesn’t result in continued freedom for our country and where no enemy poses a threat to our liberty.

But this is how these four coaches have approached their troops — I mean, sports teams — using demonstrations of so-called tough love that often pass for bullying.

And, they’re not the only ones. They’re just among a small percentage who’ve been caught.

The sports world I have been a part of since the age of 10 demands that student-athletes and professionals alike are well-mannered, headstrong citizens who follow the law and obey team rules but have enough thick skin to weather every four-letter word and personal attack whipped their way by the foul-mouthed coaches who set those rules.

Yeah, you know, the ones who order their players to act the way they are told to, not the way coaches do.

And as laws against verbal abuse in the workplace and education and awareness of the resulting mental illness are on the rise, society as a whole has done nowhere near enough to contain both ills in the sports world. But that’s where Hayes, Rice, Knight and Norwood — just to name a few — committed their most egregious crimes.

The first three coaches are household names for all the wrong reasons aside from the number of games they’ve won. Norwood, who recently resigned as Arkansas-Little Rock’s baseball coach — is on his way to such celebrity status thanks to a released recording of his tirade on Deadspin.com.

The whole thing developed as Norwood was apparently upset at a UALR player — or more than one — over not picking up trash or baseball equipment and putting the items in their rightful places. Early in the clip, Norwood suggests the players were too good to clean up after themselves because they were undefeated through four games. (UALR finished the season 25-29 and 11-19 in the Sun Belt Conference.)

“You think you’re f——— big s—- because you’re 4 and 0, you haven’t beaten anybody yet,” Norwood said in the recording, believed to be made after a 1-0 victory over Southeast Missouri State on Feb. 18.

And his voice hadn’t even reached a high pitch yet.

“Hey, Travis, I’m right f——— here,” Norwood said, apparently to pitcher Travis McDonald, according to Deadspin.

“I’m looking right at you,” the response goes.

“You know you aren’t — don’t you f——— talk back to me today,” Norwood said. “Hey, you wanna look down, then get the f—- out of here. I’ll find someone else to pitch tomorrow. You wanna f——— go now? There’s the f——— door, son. Get the f—- out if you don’t like it.

Wow, I needed some fresh air after hearing all those words.

Not that I hadn’t heard very similar in person inside a locker room before. You know, as a 15-year-old on a high school junior varsity team and all through my varsity years.

On the Deadspin clip, you can hear the sound of trash being either kicked around or batted around by Norwood as his tirade continues.

“That’s all your s—-, right?” he asked a player. “Huh? That’s all your s—- … that you can’t take your f——— little p—— a—- up to pick up.”

Yeah, I remember my whole team being called something similar to that on the JV. Had I thought about it, I’d have turned that coach in to the superintendent.

In some other parts of the dialogue, Norwood yells so loud, I can’t make out what the heck he’s saying, especially when a player tries to stand up to him.

“What you don’t like is getting called out,” Norwood said. The player’s response was inaudible.

“There he goes, you’re still p—-ed, mother f——-!”

And you’re not, Scott?

On Saturday, school Chancellor Joel Anderson issued a memo to University of Arkansas President Donald Bobbitt, the UA Board of Trustees and the UALR Board of Visitors regarding allegations against the baseball program, ranging from “inappropriate language” to “physical assaults on players” to NCAA rules violations. (The memo can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/pg6g8lm)

By now, the Foundation for a Better College Life or MADD: Mothers Against Dirty Dialogue or some other special-interest group could be plotting some kind of protest against UALR in light of Norwood’s tirade, so it’s a good thing Anderson’s starting to release documents related to the matters. But, boy, did UALR stay silent in public until Deadspin outed Norwood.

UALR, just do what Ohio State, Rutgers and Indiana have done and remind us that inappropriate language in an educational setting is unacceptable. Admit that you dropped the ball in sending a serious message to all of the athletic world and academia by not canning this potty-mouthed guy.

Because some of us have had it with the hypocrisy.

I.C. Murrell is the sports editor of The Commercial. Email him at imurrell@pbcommercial.com.