Pig Out: No Reason To Feel Sorry For Richardson

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the downfall of Arkansas Razorback basketball coach Nolan Richardson.

It won't be the same at this week's Southeastern Conference tournament without Nolan Richardson. The man always fascinated me. I will miss him. I really will.

I will not feel sorry for him.

Richardson is gone after almost 17 seasons as Arkansas head basketball coach, cut loose after a tirade last Monday in which he called everyone in sight racists and basically challenged school administrators to buy out his contract. They took him up on it.

There are plenty of real problems in this world. In eastern Afghanistan, United States soldiers are engaged in a battle against al-Quaida and Taliban forces, part of the ongoing war against terrorism. There have been casualties. There will be more casualties. In northern Afghanistan people young and old die daily from the effects of starvation and drought, unable to get food or basic medical attention. In the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians are killing each other at a terrifying rate. Innocent people die every day while doing mundane things we take for granted.

And I'm supposed to worry because Nolan Richardson says he was treated differently than other Arkansas coaches while he was making a million dollars a year, driving cars he didn't pay for, wearing clothes he didn't pay for and apparently sending a stream of African-American kids back into the world without college degrees?

All over this country, there are real victims of racism. Even today, black people are turned down for jobs every day for no other reason than they are black. The percentage of minorities in our prisons should be alarming to us all. Spend a few days in a courtroom and you'll understand why. In our criminal justice system, if you can't afford a lawyer, you can't afford justice. People are sent away every day, not because they are guilty but because they are poor. And a lot of those poor people are black. Children shoot each other. Children go hungry. Children are abused in unspeakable ways.

And I'm supposed to worry because Nolan Richardson thinks there are too many white sports writers covering the Arkansas Razorbacks?

Homeless people wander the streets of our cities with nowhere to go and no way to get there. They sleep under bridges and in boxes, picking through garbage for their evening meals.

And I'm supposed to feel bad because Nolan Richardson had to put up with a few rednecks criticizing him on radio talk shows?

Give me a break.

If Richardson had gotten himself into trouble standing up for others, if he'd used his status to speak for black people who truly are treated differently, for the poor and the sick, for those who can't speak for themselves, I and others would have applauded him. He didn't do any of that. He didn't express anger because of the real injustices black people endure. He expressed anger only because of the phantom injustices he claimed to endure. He had the unmitigated gall to compare himself to his great grandfather who "came over on a ship." While he was at it, he created problems for every Arkansas coach who goes recruiting when he told the world that Fayetteville just doesn't have much for black kids.

Big-time college football and basketball coaches are paid obscene amounts of money these days. They do their jobs in full view of thousands. When things don't go well, the criticism is going to come. It won't always be constructive. It won't always be nice. Richardson chose to believe it came because he was black. My guess is it came because he was 13-14.

Those who know Richardson well say he a kind and generous man who has quietly done many things to help many people. They say he and athletic director Frank Broyles, an Arkansas icon, are outright enemies and have been for years. Some even say Broyles planned to fire him two years ago, but Richardson spoiled those plans by winning the SEC tournament.

I wish Richardson the best. I hope he finds another coaching job if he wants one and gains some satisfaction in the twilight of his career, but I don't feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for victims. Starving kids are victims. People convicted of crimes they didn't commit are victims. Innocent people dying in wars they didn't start are victims. Abused women and children are victims. People with no homes and no hope are victims.

Nolan Richardson is no victim.

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