Keith Strudler: The Rapper, The Coach And The Kettlebell
I’ll admit this much at the beginning. There’s probably more that we don’t know about this story that what we do, which is a bad place to start offering analysis. So I won’t pretend to offer deep conjecture on the conflict between music magnate Sean Diddy Combs and UCLA assistant football coach Sal Alosi, who coaches Diddy’s son and UCLA defensive back Justin Combs, who, for the record, is a marginal contributor to the team. But, to get everyone up to speed, here’s what’s generally been reported. Apparently, dad wasn’t happy at how his son was treated at Monday’s practice, where apparently Alosi was pretty hard on Justin, noting he didn’t care who his father is. Sean, who of course was watching practice, as far too many fathers of adult children are want to do, followed Alosi back to his office. From there, it’s a bit more he said, he said. But it’s alleged that Combs both instigated a physical conflict, then proceeded to swing a Kettlebell at one of the team interns. And for the uninitiated, a Kettlebell is basically a giant iron ball with a handle, the newest fitness craze that I’m certain soon go the way of the Thigh Master and the Shake Weight. Because of that, and whatever else happened in the office, Sean Diddy Combs was arrested on three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of making terrorist threats and one count of battery. Combs has insisted the charges are bogus and anything that happened was simply in self-defense of himself and his son, who, again, is a 21-year-old college football player.
That’s where we stand at this point. UCLA head football coach Jim Mora, who probably can’t understand how this is part of his job, isn’t touching this with a 10 foot pole, instead allowing the “legal process to run its course,” as he put it. With any luck, that course won’t include a subpoena or lengthy made-for-TV trial. UCLA may not get the attention of its sexier cross town rival USC, but I can’t imagine this would be part of the recruiting package. You know, come play here, and your dad might end up in jail.
It’s fairly likely that UCLA was quite pleased when Justin decided to go cross country from New York to play for the Bruins. While an average athletic recruit, at least by big time Pac-12 standards, Justin would bring certain intangibles, if you will. Like a father that’s worth more than most American states and that largely termed the phrase star-power. And Justin Combs isn’t the only son of a hip hop mogul in the Bruins family, as Snoop Dog’s son Cordell Broadus will play wide receiver for UCLA next year. So if the games were to be decided by a rap battle, like in the movie 8 Mile, then the Bruins might be set.
Now, since we really don’t know exactly what happened, there’s basically two ways to look at this unfortunate event. First, it’s not a stretch to consider that too many coaches use far too wounding a tone and technique in motivating, if you will, their athletic talent. What was once considered tough love is better recognized as simply abuse. Perhaps we’re finally becoming more aware of its prevalence and impact, but athletes, even Division I athletes at major football universities, shouldn’t be subject to verbal or physical abuse just because these games are important, or at least important to somebody. That’s a lesson learned by Mike Rice and Doug Wojcik and all the other coaches who’ve been fired because they don’t know the line between teaching and hurting. Not knowing what really happened at UCLA, I can’t say if that’s the case here.
But just as importantly, the reality is that Sean Diddy Combs probably shouldn’t have been at that practice in the first place. Part of the whole idea of sports is that they should help our kids grow into adults. And like anything, that means knowing when to hold on, and knowing when to let go. Justin Combs isn’t a five-year-old at his first soccer practice. He’s a young adult being taught, hopefully, by trained professionals. And Comb’s presence – whether or not he’s a billionaire musician – undermines the potential and even sanctity of that process. This isn’t supporting your kid at a game, but rather hovering over a practice session. It would be like parents sitting in on every college lecture, just to make sure the professor is doing it right. It sounds ridiculous when you think of it that way. And it is in this case as well.
Of course, there’s a lot that’s ridiculous about this case, including a very strange use of a Kettlebell. And there’s even more that we simply don’t know.
Keith Strudler is the director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication and an associate professor of communication. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler
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