Yesterday at lunch time, I trundled over to the KPCC radio studio here on campus to do an interview with NPR. They're doing a story on Ratemyprofessors, and they got my name from this InsideHigherEd article. The piece will eventually air on either Morning Edition or All Things Considered, but probably not for a week or two. If I get more details on when it'll be on, I'll post them. I really, really like radio. I make no secret of my own desire to have a part-time gig as a talk-show host.
Our six chinchillas are well and happy. I've opened up a new "Flickr" account, and now must simply edit and upload the many photos we've taken of Chihiro, Ninotchka, Gabriella, Joonko, Dudley, and Racheli. They have captured the hearts of the team of workmen who are redoing our air-conditioning system at home. Tony, the owner of the company installing the new ducts and compressor/condenser thing, said "I'm amazed that people are willing to spend so much for these little guys." He's considering a chinchilla for his kids; we figure that an AC repair guy is the right man to adopt one. He'll know how to keep these intensely heat-sensitive animals nice and cool.
And I have an odd confession to make: though it may seem strange for a liberal evangelical metrosexual college gender studies professor to say so, I am now and have been for decades a huge Bobby Knight fan. The former Indiana and current Texas Tech coach is in the news again; once again, he is accused of "crossing the line" with one of his players. (He apparently struck the boy gently under the chin to reprimand him.) For some thirty years, Knight has made himself famous for many things: his remarkable coaching and motivational skills, his famous flashes of anger, his willingness to cross verbal and physical boundaries with his players -- boundaries that no other modern coach would dare cross. He is feared and hated by many, loved by others. His epic tirades are balanced by a reputation for extraordinary, quiet kindnesses. Few other figures in sports have had as many passionate admirers and detractors debating his behavior, his meaning, his role, and his legacy for so long.
I can't say for sure, but I suspect that Knight wouldn't think much of the likes of me. Men who teach critical analyses of gender in contemporary American life probably don't rate high on his scale. And as someone who is committed to envisioning, embodying, and bringing about a gentler, kinder, more emotionally attuned masculine ideal, I ought to be repulsed by Bobby Knight. He ought to represent everything I dislike and struggle against. His overbearing swagger, his overgrown adolescent refusal to play by the rules, his penchant for abusive tirades (and the occasional slap or punch); this man is the very sort of rage-aholic we progressive feminists ought to find repulsive and horrifying. And yet Knight is one of a handful of coaches whom I, a devoted fan of almost every non-motorized sport, truly admire. (You haven't heard of most of the rest of them: Vivian Stringer, Anson Dorrance, Joe Ehrmann, John McDonnell, Sue Enquist.)
What I like about Knight is not his inchoate rage. What I like about him is something I don't know that everyone else sees. When I watch him on the court (and I always try and watch when his teams are playing), I see what I aspire to be: a master teacher. For me, Knight's greatness lies in his absolute, unswerving, nearly mad commitment to the personal, intellectual, and physical growth of his student-athletes. When I watch him coach, I see a man for whom winning isn't nearly as important as transformation; his great obsession is to be the catalyst for his players to grow. His famous temper seems primarily directed less towards those who challenge him and more towards those who show some reluctance to grow, change, relentlessly push themselves to become better and better still.
I'm regularly accused on this blog of setting too high a standard, particularly for men. Whether the issue is pornography, or relationships with younger women, or making and keeping commitments, or accepting responsibility for developing an emotional vocabulary, I push men hard. I push them harder than I push women not because I think women are weak, but because I am a man who knows first-hand that transformation is possible. There are plenty of folks out there pushing women to change themselves (not always in healthy ways); there are fewer voices pushing men as hard. I don't rage like Knight does, and of course, I would never, ever, ever put anything other than an affectionate hand on a student or youth group kid. But Coach Knight inspires me more than do any of his peers because I sense in him a kindred spirit; I see in him a man committed to never surrendering to the notion that we cannot become all that our truest selves long to be.
Even now, in the twilight of his career, he is barking and raging against laziness, against incompetence, and above all, against the notion that we cannot radically transform ourselves. Coach wants to build great teams of unselfish, committed young men. In a very different and significant way, that's what I want to do too.
Let's go Red Raiders; fight on, Texas Tech.