Guest post: It’s a sport that really rewards the worst human beings

Originally a comment by PZ Myers on That was before the money went into it.

It’s been this way since I was in high school.

Our football coach was a psychopath.

He took pride in his collection of paddle boards; every session of our gym class was accompanied by someone, or multiple someones, getting hacked for trivial infringements of his rules: you forgot your jock strap. You weren’t lined up with everyone right at the instant the bell rang. You came in last when running laps. If he was feeling punitive, the last ten kids would get wacked.

He was the football coach. He got away with it. Grading gym was easy, too: if you were varsity on one of the teams, you got an A; JV, a B; everyone else, a C.

Members of the football team were his favorites. He loved to set up games of dodgeball, where one side was the football squad, and everyone else was on the other. It was always that way — we’d have a day of basketball, and the teams were the football players vs. the “pussies”.

That’s how I got out of gym for one full year: playing basketball against the football assholes, and when I started scoring well (probably because as the unathletic guy on the other team, they kept ignoring me), one of them decided to take me out…by tackling me at the knees. In basketball. Completely wrecked my left knee, got to spend 6 months in a hip-to-ankle cast. The guy didn’t even get a rebuke.

We didn’t have any incidents of sexual violence, at least. The closest we came was that he liked to stroll around the showers and ask the football players about their sexual activities — details about the girls at school were always welcome.

Fucking pervert and violent psychopath. I still seethe when I think of that jerk. He got his comeuppance, though: his son was a star quarterback in high school, and when he moved up to the University of Washington, his dad got promoted to a coaching position on that team. I think he also got another bump upwards when his son went pro. It’s a sport that really rewards the worst human beings.


  1. Al Dente says

    Yeah, I’ve seen that sort of thing. At my high school it was the wrestling coach. As soon as the weather got the least bit cool, we were indoors doing wrestling. I would have liked to play basketball or volleyball like the other PE teachers had their students do but that wasn’t what the coach wanted. So we did wrestling. There were two groups in that class, the wrestling team and the victims. Most of the time the victims stood around, waiting to be humiliated or recovering from humiliation. The team would practice on the victims, keeping us in various holds while the coach “critiqued” the victim’s poor moves. Most of the PE teachers wanted the kids to get some exercise, improve their coordination, and have fun. The coach wanted to train his wrestling team and didn’t care about the rest of the students in the class. Fortunately I had the guy as a PE teacher for only one year.

    There have only been two or three people that I’ve hated. The wrestling coach was one of them.

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    “He got his comeuppance, though”

    Either I’m not seeing this as the irony/sarcasm intended, or that word does not mean what he thinks it means…

  3. John Morales says


    Blanche @2, it’s sardonic — so yeah, you’re not seeing the irony.

    Specifically, a knowingly subversive yet literal use of “comeuppance”, as in “coming up [in the world]”.

    (Wordplay, I can do)

  4. Mark Erickson says

    Why does this have to be about football as a sport? There are asshole football coaches of course. But the assholes are attracted to football coaching because of the power, not the sport itself. It just so happens that in a lot of places in America, football is the sport with the most power.

    Read about Joe Ehrmann for a great counter-example. And Bill Walsh and Herm Edwards and Eddy Robinson and on and on.

  5. simulateddave says

    Al Dente @1,

    That’s the first I’ve heard of wrestling in PE. (Maybe I should get out more.) Wrestling is a perfectly good sport, but involuntary wrestling is kind of disturbing.

  6. Silentbob says

    @ 7 Mark Erickson

    It’s not about football as a sport. It’s about the culture frequently attached. Nobody is objecting to football per se.

  7. Silentbob says

    … Well, actually, I shouldn’t be so absolutist. There probably are people who have problems with the likelihood of injury inherent to the sport, but recent posts have been criticizing the culture, not the sport.

  8. Brian E says

    Isn’t there a high rate of acquired brain injury, or long term brain issues with American football? That might be a reason to object to the sport.

    But yeah, I think it’s culture that is being objected to. As PZ mentions, the coach being a psychotic pervert, and this not being uncommon because you know, we loves our football and it’s only hazing, can’t really be slated against the rules or gameplay of American football.

  9. Jackie says

    When I was in high school in the 90’s the football team jumped a friend of mine in the parking lot for being gay. They broke his jaw and though he was a straight A student, he immediately dropped out. Not one thing was done about it.

  10. Ysidro says


    Why is involuntary wrestling particularly disturbing? Is it more disturbing than involuntary basketball, track, or rope climbing?

  11. brucegorton says


    Because it is a form of combat – in which those who are not skilled, or particularly interested in becoming skilled, can be quite severely injured.

    Particularly if the coach involved is a psychopath.

  12. simulateddave says

    bbrucegorton @14:

    That’s my thinking. There’s always a chance of injury in any athletic activity, but wrestling is a kind of fighting. It would be like involuntary boxing or involuntary MMA. I don’t have a problem (in principle) with those sports, but I don’t think that students should have to participate in them for course credit. Seems inappropriate.

  13. says

    Yeah, we had wrestling in our PE class too. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wrestle the football players — they were out of our weight class.

    Instead, they’d match us limp-wristed weakling against one another, and then stand around making crude sexual remarks while we were thrashing around. Or worse, I’d get pitted against one of the little guys who really were on the wrestling team, a solid ball of muscle, and get slammed around for 30 seconds before getting pinned. That was always entertaining.

  14. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    My experience of PE was the same as PZ’s. The coaches either took active delight in tormenting sissy boys like me by forcing interaction with jocks that wanted to kill us, or pretended they didn’t never see nothin’ going on’ no sir.

  15. says

    Jeeeeeeezus. I hated what we called Gym, but it was nothing like that.

    This is definitely one way men and especially boys are punished by gender bullshit way more ferociously than women are. We had no contact sport of any kind, and thank fuck for that.

  16. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    The way boys are done in US gym/atheletic culture is, I hasten to remind everyone, a direct result of applied misogyny. (Men, feminists know something about fixing this, ICYMI).

  17. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Everyone not including Ophelia, obviously. She has enough assholes “reminding” her of things around here lately.

  18. sonofrojblake says

    This is definitely one way men and especially boys are punished by gender bullshit way more ferociously than women are

    Reasons why men should be feminists, number (insert large number here).

    And it’s not just the US, of course. The English football league has 92 teams, each team has a squad of maybe 15 players. Out of all that, among semi-professional and professional players in the English game, Liam Davis of Yeovil Town is the only out gay player. Wonder why?

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