Widener Coach Proves Sportsmanship Is Dead
This last weekend Widener College Football Coach Mike Kelly found himself at odds with the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly. You may wonder why the coach of a small Division-III school would have a beef with the head coach of a National Football League team. Clearly the Eagles coach must have snubbed him at some formal ceremony or put him down in some kind of public way that went beyond any reasonable standard of conduct.
Following Saturday’s loss to the Linfield Wildcats, the Widener coach was outraged at something that Chip Kelly did on Friday to “aid” the Wildcats. In comments made by Mike Kelly to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the coach had some scathing remarks.
“Make sure you put in the paper that we thank Chip Kelly and I hope the Seahawks do well tomorrow,” the Widener coach said. “He was helping them out. Maybe somebody in Philadelphia ought to buy him a map so he knows where he lives now. But, go Seahawks.”
According to the Widener Wolverines coach, Kelly unduly aided Linfield in such an egregious manner that it cost his team the football game, knocking them from the playoffs. He was so outraged that the Eagles coach would give such an unfair advantage to the Wildcats that he felt he needed to speak out and blast the NFL coach for his “questionable” conduct.
Kelly must have crossed a very serious ethical line. He must have watched Widener game film and given the Linfield coach some great insights into how to defeat Widener. No, well then it must have been that he spied on the Wolverines practice and told the Linfield coach how to defeat their schemes. Not that either. What then, could Kelly have been so upset about that he would call out his the other Kelly in such a way?
The “crime” turned out to be one of the greatest cases of “much ado about nothing” that the sports world has seen. According to the Widener coach, on Friday during a torrential down pour in the Philadelphia area, the Eagles coach allowed Linfield to practice in the team’s indoor facilities. That really was all it was.
According to Mike Kelly this was the primary reason why his team got bounced 45-7. A one-day practice on a sheltered field gave the Linfield Wildcats such a huge advantage that they were able to pull out a 38-point win. Really? That is not just absurd. It is an example of how a coach can be completely out of touch with reality. While I appreciate that no one likes to lose, blaming the Eagles coach for the defeat is beyond ridiculous.
Why stop there? Perhaps the school cafeteria did not serve as much complex carbohydrates as the restaurant near the hotel where Linfield stayed. Philadelphians should picket that restaurant into extinction, don’t you think? Or how about the bus driver who brought the Wildcats to the game. Maybe he gave them much too smooth a ride. Boycott that bus line! I believe the weather man called for bad conditions for throwing the ball on Saturday. Shouldn’t he be fired?
To Chip Kelly’s credit, he has been much more magnanimous about the other Kelly’s absurdity. In an interview with 94WIP he simply called the criticism “a little misguided.” It is pretty clear which Kelly has more class.
If the Wolverines coach had taken a moment to think about it, he might have realized that the reason Chip Kelly was willing to offer his facilities is that he and Linfield Coach Joseph Smith had a personal relationship. Kelly used to coach the University of Oregon Ducks, and Linfield College is near where the Ducks play. The two have known each other for years, and offering his facilities for a few hours of practice was a natural thing to do.
Mike Kelly, however, does not seem to understand friendship. Following the game, he provided this little gem: “I don’t know if Chip knows it or not, but his secretary’s husband is a Widener grad, so he probably ought to figure out where he’s living now.” Put that way, it is quite understandable. Do not help your friend because your secretary’s husband went to a college that you are not personally affiliated with at all. It all makes perfect sense.
It is too bad male players and coaches don’t understand sportsmanship like women’s teams do. In the last five years, we have seen two of the most altruistic acts occur in the sports world, and they both happened on a women’s college softball field. In 2009 a game between Central Washington and Western Oregon was played to decide the conference championship. Sara Tucholvsky hit her first home run of her college career for a three-run home run that gave her team the lead. On her way past first base, however, Tucholvsky tore her ACL.
Under rules of the sport no player on her own team is allowed to help that player round the bases. The player being assisted would be called out. If anyone from her team ran in place of her, it would be recorded as a single. Central Washington’s Mallory Holtman asked the umpire if she could carry her opponent around the bases to help her reach home plate. Her teammate, Liz Wallace, assisted her in carrying Tucholvsky. The two later told her they did this because Tucholvsky “deserved it.” The home run actually cost Central Washington the game, but made winners of these two young women.
Earlier this year, two players from Florida Southern did the same thing for Kara Oberer of Eckerd College after she had injured her knee following a home run. Chelsea Oglevie and Leah Pemberton carried Oberer around the bases after Oglevie noticed that the Eckerd player had hurt her knee and was unable to continue. The home run helped Eckerd win the game.
These incredible acts of sportsmanship made these women winners, even if the scoreboard did not say so. For Widener, Coach Mike Kelly has proven that he is not a winner no matter what the results on the field are.
By Robert Pannier