BRONX, NY – “That’s a real shame when folks be throwin’ away a perfectly good white boy like that.” So goes the quote in the Savage Steve Holland 80s comedy Better off Dead, when two guys pruning a tree spy John Cusack in the back of a garbage truck. In the movie it was nothing more than a throwaway line, but in professional sports it’s a way of life.
You need look no further than the recent NFL firings, hirings, and interviews to know that there’s always some use for inept, middle-aged white guys, no matter how often they fail. After getting cut loose by the New York Jets, Rex Ryan made it clear that he would not be accepting any defensive coordinator positions and would only take a head coaching job. How an unemployed foot-fetishist is able to dictate his next job move is beyond me. But there were Atlanta and Buffalo and ESPN falling all over themselves in pursuit of Rex. He eventually chose Buffalo, a place where five feet of snow still can’t cover the fact that he’s walking into another horrible QB situation. Meanwhile the Broncos just fired John Fox and already he’s set to interview for the Bears job. Fox is like that needy girl or guy that can have absolutely zero downtime between relationships. NFL teams have been doing this for years, recycling the same old white guys over and over again rather than trying someone new, which is why guys like Mike Shanahan and Norv Turner keep turning up like every week is Weekend at Bernies.
Other sports are not immune from white boy dumpster diving either. The NBA always has room for another Don Nelson or Larry Brown hire. Stan Van Gundy seems to be the current used-coach du jour. But don’t go to sleep on guys like Rick Carlisle, Flip Saunders, and Kevin McHale. The NHL’s coaching carousel has also always seemed to follow this formula. NHL coaches move around like secondhand furniture. “This piece looked terrible in the Garden, but I think it’s just what we need to spruce up our arena.” So, as a Minnesota fan, I find it incredible that the Wild still haven’t managed to fire Mike Yeo and replace him with a Quenneville or Hitchcock or, God forbid, one of the Sutters. Sooner or later you know Mike Keenan’s gonna turn up again, right?
In baseball, George Steinbrenner was the gold standard when it came to repurposing white trash. Billy Martin was brought back to the Yankees so many times he smelled like a Staten Island landfill. Saint Joe Torre managed five different teams but only attained “genius” status with the Yankees, their record-setting payroll, and gang of PED miscreants. Joe’s non-Yankee regular season managerial record? 1153-1230. The Mets currently have a previously-owned manger in Terry Collins, and don’t for a second think we’ve seen the last of Bobby V. in the bigs. More people will remember that he took one of the worst teams ever to the 2000 World Series than they will his epic flameout in Boston.
So, even though it’s okay to discard young players who aren’t living up to expectations, don’t be so fast to discard that middle-aged coach that’s won absolutely nothing. There’s a good home for him somewhere.
On an unrelated note, today I backed off my pledge to not write another column until we had our holiday party. Management should take this as a sign of good faith on my part. I make no promises moving forward. After all, I am white and middle-aged, I’m sure I can get a coaching or commissioner’s job somewhere.