Defending the 'wussification' of sports

Defending the 'wussification' of sports
November 8, 2013, 3:45 pm
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Bullying is on its way out of sports, because there are hundreds of coaches like Stanford's David Shaw, who do things the right way -- the humane way. (USATSI)

I used to have two words for the people who spoke of the wussification of sports. Then I cleaned it up and went to my default position, which is “shut up.”

But I found two better ones. David Shaw.

Wussification is the perfect 21st century buzzword because it has no concrete meaning. It means only what its user chooses to have it mean, which means it has all the same properties as damp dynamite. When you handle it, you don’t exactly know when your head and your face will be in different places, but at some point they will be, and you will totally deserve for using a word as a catch-all weapon.

Ultimately, though, as wussification as a concept has been grafted onto the Jonathan Martin case, it has taken on a meaning, one we can use and cling to as the definitive statement on the matter.

Wussification, n. (wussify, v.) – To object to, or try to prevent people in a position of power from bullying, abusing or terrorizing employees either emotionally, psychologically, or physically in an attempt to enhance their performance or do as one wishes them to do.

You, as the reader, are entitled to make the further claim that it is also a statement against women, as it is meant to refer to that part of the female anatomy that men do not possess. Enjoy yourselves. I am not the Urban Dictionary.

But as Martin has come to personify wussification for choosing the only avenue left to him to stop the bullying/abuse/terrorizing he was subjected to by an as-yet-undetermined number of Miami Dolphins, I have chosen to use that definition to make the case that David Shaw is therefore one of the biggest wussifiers in all of sport.

Thursday, for example, he wussified the hell out of Oregon. You saw it, unless you were riveted to the mutant charms of Minnesota-Washington, Baylor-Oklahoma, Lafayette-Troy or even Canucks-Sharks. His Stanford team systematically, remorselessly and relentlessly crushed a national championship contender with the most time-honored principles of old-school football -- large, quick and skilled offensive and defensive linemen, a single-minded plan for winning the game and an unswerving devotion to it.

Bo Schembechler would have been proud.

But here’s the thing. Bill Walsh would have been just as proud.

See, Shaw doesn’t use the divine right of kings or its corollary, the prerogatives of power, to get his players to perform the difficult tasks associated with physical, successful football. He coaches them, the way the best coaches do. He makes sure his assistants coach them as well. No threats. No punitive action. No physical or mental abuse. Just education. You know, what coaches always say coaching is about.

And no, this is not just a Stanford thing, so we’ll brook none of that “well, that’s an elite school with smart kids and blah-blah-blah-de-blah-blah.” There are lots of fellow wussifiers out there who succeed. There are also serial bulliers, brutes and louts as well, but Martin has, through the cruelty of his personal journey, helped hasten the end of their reign.

The point is, “wussification” is a label that has no meaning except to expose the prejudices of the user and therefore is no plank upon which anyone can comfortably stand. It, like “hit him back if you don’t like him,” and “keep it in-house,” and “toughen him up,” and the worst of all, “well, that’s the way it was when I grew up,” is now seeing the beginning of its end.

And as much as Jonathan Martin is helping to speed its end, so is David Shaw, because of this indisputable fact:

David Shaw is an old-school coach only tactically, and if he is a serial wussifier, there are 125 other FCS coaches and thousands in other schools and sports who would wussify just the way he does. And that doesn’t even count the millions of parents who are all for exactly that kind of level of wussification.

Now we just have to think of a better word. Maybe “human” would work, though I don’t want to come off as some kind of a spineless candyass.