To the point week of 9/27/07

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UP UNTIL SATURDAY NIGHT, I couldn’t have told you who the head football coach at Oklahoma State University was. I’m quite the sports fan, but I could have guessed all night and still not come up with Mike Gundy’s name.

All I knew about Oklahoma State football was that it once had Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders – two Pro Football Hall of Famers – on the same team.

But I couldn’t have told you their coach’s name, either.

But that all changed when I settled in on Saturday night for a little “SportsCenter” before bed.

I was paying half attention when I saw a football coach waving around a newspaper. Being in the business that I am, the scene drew my attention.

That’s when I discovered the Mike Gundy was indeed the head football coach at Oklahoma State, and he was quite – for lack of a better term - ”miffed”.

It seems that a columnist at the Oklahoman newspaper by the name of Jenni Carlson wrote a newspaper column that was critical of the Cowboy’s quarterback, Bobby Reid.

Among other parts of the article, Jenni Carlson apparently suggested that some of the Oklahoma State coaches felt that Bobby Reid was “soft”, and wasn’t strong enough emotionally and mentally to play big time college football.

That’s when Mike Gundy stepped from the shadows and became one of the great characters in sports history.

But he didn’t mean to do that.

In a screaming tirade, with Jenni Carlson in the room, Mike Gundy yelled about how the reporter, the editor, and the newspaper took a cheap shot at an amateur athlete.

He screamed that the reporter and the paper crossed the line when the story took a personal slant, saying that the media should understand that these are kids and that they are amateurs and not professional athletes.

He claimed that 75-percent of the article was inaccurate, and generally “freaked out” in front of the local media in the room – which became an international audience.

I have to give Mike Gundy credit for standing up for his player. If I had a son that was talented enough on a football field to play at college’s highest level, I would like him to play for a coach who I know will support him.

A guy like Mike Gundy.

But then I began to have problems with Mike Gundy.

You see, he made a fundamental mistake. He had a good point, but his good point went out the window when he became emotional and angry.

When he lost control, he lost credibility. People stopped listening to what he was saying, because they were so amused at how he was saying it.

He says his players are amateurs, but they get a full ride, five year scholarship that comes with all of the bells and whistles that are handed to athletes.

When you enter into that situation, you should understand that you are also entering a fishbowl and your play may be subject to debate.

The article was written in a local newspaper, and probably would never have become a national lightning rod had Mike Gundy not gone off like a rocket.

But perhaps what bothers me most is that, after Mike Gundy ripped Jenni Carlson for getting personal, he then stooped right down to that level. He ranted about how the person who had written the article “couldn’t have children”. He called the story “garbage”. He called the writer “garbage”. He called the editor “garbage”.

Like I said, he was “miffed”.

And now he’s a star on YouTube.

I gathered my daughters the other evening to try and explain to them that you can have a legitimate point, but if you lose your temper and your cool, the best point in the world gets lost in the shuffle.

Mike Gundy may have very well been right with his opinion, but he was wrong in how he expressed that opinion. He’s in that same fishbowl, and part of leading an organization is being able to keep your cool while others are doing the “freaking out”.

As the Dylan Thomas poem says: “…”If you can keep your head while all around you are losing theirs…”

It’s a good thought, but hard to master.