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You can’t always blame the coach

MICHAEL GEBELEIN
Sports Writer

It’s an easy thing to do, one of the stalwarts of sports punditry.
If something goes wrong, and someone has to take the heat, the easiest target is always the coach. He or she is the figurehead of a program, is usually highly visible and, being in that position, has many different people to answer to.
Believe me, after watching the Ravens implode against the Patriots on Sunday, I fell into that old rhythm of looking for someone, anyone, to blame for Baltimore’s loss.
My first target, of course, was the kicker. I tried to find out how much money he bet on the Patriots by three. Next up was the quarterback — if only he had gone for the first down things might have been different — or the receiver who dropped a nearly perfect pass in the end zone.
The truth is that none of those things matter. The kicker missed the field goal, the receiver dropped the pass and the quarterback screwed up a few times. It’s the reality of sport that everyone knows, someone has to be the loser.
At least the coaches and players at the professional level can retire to their mansions and extravagant cars and lick their wounds until next season. For coaches at the high school level, the lifestyle isn’t quite as luxurious.
According to several Lincoln County coaches, no stipend is awarded for a coaching staff that makes the playoffs.
An out-and-out cynic would simply avoid the postseason and enjoy their extra hours, maybe take a fishing trip up to Michigan, instead of riding around all of western North Carolina in a school bus full of noisy high school kids.
Fortunately, I didn’t see that kind of mentality from any high school football coaches this year. What I did see were people who got serious kicks from seeing the young men they coach succeed.
Changes are necessary sometimes. People get stagnant and comfortable, and the results are usually not favorable. But to saddle one person with the responsibility for an entire program — which can include thousands of people at the professional level — doesn’t seem quite right.
Everyone has to buy into the system. If even one part is out of place, problems inevitably come up.
It happens at the highest level — Peyton Manning was publicly chastised by Jim Irsay this week for saying things weren’t going very well in the Colts’ clubhouse.
The point is that no one goes it alone. Life would be a lot simpler if we could scorn a public figure at random and appear sane. No one likes dealing with huge, faceless corporations, like the cable company, so when we have a chance to direct some pent up frustration at an actual target, we jump at the opportunity.
We’d all be better off if we could resist that urge.
Michael Gebelein is a sports writer with the Lincoln Times-News

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