To his friends and supporters, I am just another dumb critic of Bobby Knight.

To his friends and supporters, I am just another sheep who says a coach who chokes a player shouldn’t be a coach.

To his friends and supporters, I am another rube taken in by a videotape that shows Bobby Knight grabbing former player Neil Reed by the throat. I obviously can’t understand the circumstances that would make Knight’s actions perfectly acceptable because I am not — as his friends and supporters will tell you — a successful college basketball coach like Bobby.

To his friends and supporters, I belong with those other fools who are upset at the latest report that Knight attacked a former assistant last November. Or that he attacked an SID 10 years ago. Or that 12 years ago, he verbally abused an Indiana University secretary and threw a vase at a wall when he couldn’t get his way.

“Yeah, so?” his friends and supporters say. “What’s the big deal? Do you know how many games he’s won?”

To his friends and supporters, I am living in the past. Why should I be concerned about incidents that happened last year, the year before or 10 years ago? Why can’t I sweep these things under the carpet, the way they were in the first place?

To his friends and supporters, I am exactly what Knight meant when he lashed out at the media: “Most of us learn how to write in second grade. Then we move on to something else.”

To his friends and supporters, a game with a ball and a basket is clearly higher ground than journalism, and I am an idiot not to see that.

Just like Bobby says.

The insensitive remarks

To his friends and supporters, I belong with those Milquetoast academics who moan, “There is one set of rules for everyone else at Indiana, and another set for Bobby Knight.” And I probably think that if a professor would get fired for it, then a basketball coach should be fired for it, too. How stupid!

To his friends and supporters, I simply do not understand what Bobby meant when he once said, “If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”

Just as I do not understand why Bobby was justified in once firing a starter’s pistol at a reporter.

To his friends and supporters, I am just another lemming who chides a coach who threw a fan in a Dumpster.

And I am obviously helpless if I think hitting a Puerto Rican policeman during the Pan Am Games — and being sentenced to 6 months in jail by the Puerto Rican authorities — is somehow, you know, a negative thing. Whose side am I on, anyhow? America’s, or those communists’ down there?

To his friends and supporters, I am failing to see the important things. That Bobby Knight wins basketball games. That he has been a national coach of the year. That he has won NCAA championships, even if the last one was 13 years ago.

To his friends and supporters, I am overlooking the fact that Knight gets most of his players to graduate. And that he raises money for charities.

To his friends and supporters, these good things — especially the winning games part — more than compensate for Bobby’s bullying everyone around him, attacking the occasional underling, cursing like a sailor or throwing objects against a wall.

To his friends and supporters, I just don’t understand the pressure of trying to win basketball games. I am a bleeping, bleeping jerk.

Just like Bobby says.

The uncalled for actions

To his friends and supporters, I am way off base to criticize a father who would kick his own son during a game. And who am I to say that putting a tampon in a player’s locker isn’t a good way to motivate him?

To his friends and supporters, I must have it out for Bobby, be jealous of him and want to see Indiana lose.

To his friends and supporters, I am way off base calling for Bobby Knight’s dismissal, as university trustees meet today to discuss his fate.

“Look,” his friends and supporters say, “if he were so bad, then how come he lasted all these years and rarely got suspended and most of the time didn’t even get a slap on the wrist? Huh?”

And his friends and supporters smile in satisfaction, having no clue that the answer to their question — and the root of the whole Knight problem — is his friends and supporters.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com.

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