Coach O'Connor and the tale of the tape

In the blink of an eye, John O’Connor saw a lifetime of work carving out a career as a respected basketball coach go up in smoke.

And I think I know why.

People blink; the camera does not.

O’Connor, you might know by now, is the Holy Family college basketball coach who got physical with one of his players.

It wasn’t all that long ago that such an incident never would have caused a ripple, let alone exploded into headlines and landed O’Connor and the offended player on national TV.

It would have been handled behind closed doors.

Not anymore. That’s because this wasn’t just one kid’s word against a coach. It was captured, like so much of our lives is these days – on videotape.

Kaboom! A career incinerated.

Looking at the videotape it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that O’Connor was well over the line in dealing with player Matt Kravchuk.
Upset at the way his players had been playing, and apparently ticked at the way Kravchuk was doing a specific drill, O’Connor seems to charge him, take a slap at him and then hit him with a fairly forceful shoulder. Kravchuk wound up on the gym floor.

I can tell you that if a kid had called the newspaper with such a tale, I probably would not have put much credence in it. But this wasn’t just the kid’s word. This was on video, which played on a local TV station, which catapulted the story into the news stratosphere. And yes, there’s a part of me that wonders about that kind of news judgment.

It’s pretty much the same thing that happened in Upper Darby when police released a videotape of a group of Upper Darby High School kids bullying 13-year-old Nadin Khoury. It’s one thing to read about such an attack.
It’s another altogether to see him being dragged through the snow by his feet, stuffed upside down in a tree, and finally hung by his coat from a fence.

There is something visceral about video that words on a page sometimes simply cannot convey. That’s one of the reasons we are pushing so hard into the video realm on our website.

The truth is we live in a video society. Kids are now used to “seeing”
news, not just reading about it as words printed on a page or computer screen.

O’Connor and Kravchuk made the obligatory appearance on national TV on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” O’Connor admitted he was over the line and offered an apology. Kravchuk said he couldn’t accept it, that he was still having problems believing his old coach. He indicated he now could no longer play for him because he did not respect him.

I winced, but I didn’t stop watching.

Last night O’Connor stepped down as coach.

I played a lot of sports when I was in high school. I had some tough coaches. I know that if what happened to Kravchuk had happened to me, I wouldn’t have made a peep. I simply would have gotten back in the line and considered myself lucky that the coach was trying to make me a better player. Then again, I had already spent eight years under the firm tutelage of the good Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so not much a coach did was going to bother me.

That’s not the way things are done today. Kids don’t remain silent. They go home and tell their parents, who complain to school officials. And who sometimes contact lawyers.

Plus, they had the magic video.

Consider for a moment how much of our lives is being captured by these ubiquitous cameras. And wonder how many times you’ve done something that no doubt would make you and everyone else cringe if it were recorded for posterity, let alone broadcast on national TV.

It seems to me John O’Connor has paid a very steep price for going over the line in making a point to his player. I don’t think the school did him any favors by not taking action immediately after this incident happened a few weeks back.

My guess is we have not heard the end of this one, even we have seen the end of one man’s career.

No doubt this will likely wind up in court.

We will soon forget John O’Connor, what he did for a living, and the years he spent building that career. None of that will be the image of him we remember. Instead we will forever view him as the coach on the video, striking a player.

John O’Connor’s story will fade away, just at Nadin Khoury’s did.

Until the next piece of tantalizing video arrives.

It won’t take long. I know. I do this for a living. It is the age we now live – and work – in. The video age.

Remember that the next time you’re going into the local Wawa, or paying that toll on your morning commute, or standing at the ATM.

Your actions are being recorded on videotape. And in a heartbeat, those images can be broadcast around the world via the Internet.

Roll the video…


Jack Huber said…
I played for some tough coaches, too, but to me it was the kick when the kid was down that was not to be brushed under the carpet. Coaches get enthusiastic and I can understand the knocking down. But not the kick.