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Rehire the coach who cursed at his players

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
October 28, 2011 -- Updated 1449 GMT (2249 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A high school football coach was secretly recorded chewing out his players for losing
  • LZ Granderson says the coach resorted to shouting and obscenities
  • The coach was trying to teach his team an important life lesson, Granderson says
  • Granderson: Adults who shelter children from reality aren't doing them any favors

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs.

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- If you haven't heard the audio clip of high school football coach Shawn Abel going off, you need to take two minutes out of your life to do so.

It is classic.

Dude is yelling and screaming and you can hear stuff being banged around, and I don't believe any actor outside of maybe Samuel L. Jackson could come close to re-enacting the level of passion that is wrapped around each curse word that comes flying out of this man's mouth.

It is ^%$^&!! unbelievable.

But based on that clip -- and the fact Abel is smart enough to teach A.P. precalculus -- if my son played football at Collierville, I would be perfectly fine with him having Abel as his coach. Unfortunately Coach Abel resigned this week because, well, this audio clip exists. Some of the players secretly recorded Abel's pregame speech, and one of them posted it on YouTube.

The actions of the players make me more upset than Abel's rant.

Coach was ticked because they weren't playing together as a team. What kind of player leaks his coach's speech to the press?

A selfish one, thus proving his point.

While I'm sure it was uncomfortable for some of the players to sit through, I didn't hear anything that was offensive. He cursed, he yelled. Big deal. It's football, not Sesame Street.

If this is his only offense, the community should rally around the coach, encourage him to come back and tell the high school players to toughen up. They should not punish a man who has poured 25 years of his life into the community or someone who cares so much he talks about being a Collierville Dragon with pride.

Obviously if he's been a teacher at the school for this many years, he clearly understands the difference between the field and the classroom, otherwise he would have been fired for going the ^%^%* off years ago. There is certainly language that I think is unacceptable under any circumstances, but I didn't hear any of that on the clip.

He didn't use any slurs; he didn't threaten a player's safety; he didn't call the players anything other than apathetic and selfish. In some ways, it was one of the most respectful undressings I've ever heard. Since the story broke, there's been a Facebook page established to show support. I've also seen anonymous quotes from Collierville players characterizing Abel as a "psycho" and noting that wasn't his first rant. And I'm sure it wasn't, given they had lost four of five games and need to win Friday to make the playoffs.

But funny, I didn't see any quotes that denied Abel's assessment of the team's playing or their commitment to hard work. It was as if the players knew they weren't playing up to their potential. They just didn't like the way the coach said it. And having been around sports my entire adult life, I can tell you a lot of athletes -- on every level -- do not like it when a coach points out their faults. There is a line, but Abel didn't cross it. There are some places in life where boo boos are met with a hug. The locker room is not one of them.

Near my home there is a gymnastics school, and plastered on the wall facing the highway it reads "Every child is a champion." Each time I drive by, I just want to pull over, run inside and tell the kids the truth.

"Little Johnny, Little David, Mitch... these people are lying to you -- only one of you can be a champion. They don't hand out three gold medals... See you later."

We are so obsessed with shielding kids from disappointment and discomfort that they have no idea how to deal with life when they leave the nest. That's not parenting, that's crippling.

Abel's speech may have been shocking, but it may also have been the best thing to have happened to a kid in that locker room because it placed him in a highly stressful, highly confrontational situation, and the kid learned he can handle it.

I can hear parents now saying, "But this is just high school," to which I say, yes it is, and Abel was trying to teach his players something. I hope they reinstate him as coach so he can finish the lesson.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

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