The American Film Institute lists Hoosiers as one of the 10 best sports films of all time. It’s the story of a top basketball coach who rebuilds his career at a rural high school in Indiana. His crime: He hit a player and was fired.
U of C’s Blake Nill isn’t suffering the same fate. He’s the football coach who unleashed fury toward his son, Taylor Nill, at a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) semifinal game last week.
Taylor, 19, taunted his opponents after the Dinos scored. His coach dad went ballistic.
Now, the U of C is playing for the Canadian university championship Saturday in Laval, and Nill is nominated for coach of the year. It’s likely he fumbled the honour away.
That’s the thing about kids. They irritate the hell out of you. And the worst thing? You see all your faults played right back at you.
What Blake Nill saw wasn’t his son acting like a jerk. He saw a young version of himself kicking an opponent when he was down; he saw his own in-your-face, raging bull of a temper busting free from years of uneasy containment.
He saw all his parenting efforts, or failure of them. Blake Nill looked at the face of his kid and saw the man in the mirror. He might have also seen his son’s pro dreams dissolve before his eyes.
What Coach Nill did seemed proportional to the offence. The only problem is he didn’t take it further. Banishing his son to the bench was the right response.
If you watch football, or hockey, then you can’t completely criticize loss of control. Somehow, coaches are supposed to prepare a team for aggressive competition and remain calm as a lily in the morning dew.
The fight hormones surge, both for the coach and spectators.
After watching my son’s last hockey game, I had trouble sleeping. Adrenaline still flowed. My son took an elbow to the head, some hits from behind.
I watched two of the opposing players jump on one of ours and start punching. Later, my 11-year-old went to bed sore.
If he had levelled those punches, would he be grounded or would he merit an extra bowl of ice cream? I’m just not sure. Not sure at all.
And that ambivalence in the sports world is why Coach Nill won’t be fired before the Vanier Cup, or at all.
Janice Paskey teaches journalism at Mount Royal College, serves on her community association board and is a proud mom to two boys; firstname.lastname@example.org.