Jim McElwain, the emptiness of anger, and double standards toward athletes

I am definitely late to the party on this, but that is only because I have been doing a lot of thinking. More specifically, some soul-searching, watching sunrises and sunsets, and things of that nature. Why am I thinking deeply? It’s all because Jim McElwain’s tirade, directed at Kelvin Taylor on Saturday, has brought us to the most crucial crossroads in the history of these particular United States of America.

(Well, at least it FEELS that important…)

That’s right. After McElwain went full Gary Busey (never go full Gary Busey, by the way), the debate has begun: Is America weak in the knees, soft in the shins, a country full of millennials so sick in the belly that the wussification of North America is nearing its completion?

Or, you know, did some older guy with a lot of power — making millions of dollars — throw a temper-tantrum at an unpaid laborer, because nothing shows a sign of power more than belittling another person who can do nothing about it?


To be honest, while I do think McElwain certainly could have handled things better, I am not offended by him losing his marbles. Then again, these acts of complete insanity cannot go unchecked. By simply ignoring or giving the okay for these types of shenanigans, we would be pushing coaches more towards these types of reactions whenever things don’t go their way. Hell have no fury like a college coach not getting his way.

The matter at hand really has nothing to do with the supposed wussification of America, either. Kelvin Taylor is no more or less a man than he was before the tirade. He is still the son of a former NFL player, a good college player, and there’s very little reason to think that McElwain nearly losing control of his bodily functions did anything other than humiliate the “student-athlete” in front of a huge audience.

Still, people (and by people I mean wackos) will argue that McElwain was in the right; that Taylor’s actions deserved some sort of recourse; that all that the first-year Florida coach was trying to do was impose some form of deserved discipline on the kid — which is mostly all sorts of bullshit.

We should be clear. I doubt McElwain purposely tried to go bonkers on Taylor. I am sure he is a somewhat decent guy who got caught up in his own emotional whirlwind, but that’s actually the problem here. Some people have been trying to justify his actions as some sort of man-teaching, but all McElwain did was lose control of himself — he’s the one who needs to learn a thing or two.

We are still, magically, in a world which applies different rules and ideas to athletes than we would to people in any other walk of life. Considering that Taylor is not even an employee — he’s a mere unpaid laborer — it only makes it that much more disturbing.


Imagine if you will, that you are at work. You happened to do something “wrong-ish,” but only after you got your company a huge client (or whatever… apply your proper trade’s appropriate analogy). Then your boss goes bonkers on you, not only while your coworkers are around to watch, but as an entire nation witnesses your boss belittle you like a child. How would that feel?

Your boss has a more proper platform to do that to you than Jim McElwain does to do that to any of his players — for the simple reason that you get PAID to do a job and Florida Gator players are performing a service for the school… not for McElwain or you or anyone else (according to the NCAA).

McElwain’s breakdown of his senses isn’t the biggest debacle in the history of college sports. That is not what I am trying to say. However, using it to point to the wussification of America, or how millennials are evil, is wrong — because even though the Florida coach didn’t do anything wrong on an epic scale… he was still wrong.


We will often call college athletes “kids” because it helps us internally justify the NCAA’s inability to pay them fair market value. At the same time, however, we somehow expect a lot from these “kids” merely because we seem them every week on our television sets. It is a seriously strange scenario, one which always results in my asking, “How would YOU like to be endlessly judged for your actions as an 18-22 year-old?”

All in all, it is hogwash. There’s no true think piece to be had here. Taylor probably shouldn’t have made a throat slash gesture, the same type that once got his father fined in the NFL, but he is also just a kid — and his father seemed to turn out just fine after doing something similar as an adult.

McElwain definitely shouldn’t have acted like my three-year-old daughter after I take a toy away from her, either. He is supposed to be the adult in this situation. Instead of acting like an adult, though, McElwain looked far worse than the person he was trying to discipline — if that is what he was even trying to do.

Ah, America, where we constantly belittle millennials (I am still not 100 percent sure who they are) and bash unpaid laborers for lacking maturity while giving free passes to the adults who humiliate them on national TV.

The home of the brave, we call ourselves.

Maybe some of us… but don’t include Jim McElwain in that group. There was nothing brave or noble he did this past weekend.

About Joseph Nardone

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.