Colin McEnroe’s Disingenuous Attack on Geno Auriemma

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2015, file photo, UConn women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Florida in Storrs, Conn. Auriemma can record his 900th career win on Tuesday when his second-ranked Huskies host Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

To the layperson, a newspaper opinion columnist’s job is to analyze events, develop an opinion, and articulate that opinion to their audience. This is one of the ways in which we can engage in productive public discourse, exchange ideas, and refine our own stances. Unfortunately, for some columnists, the job becomes merely about farting out a hot take to generate page views for advertising money.

The Hartford Courant’s Colin McEnroe is not one typically associated with this practice, making this morning’s misguided missive regarding Luke Gatti, the “Mac & Cheese Kid,” and UConn Women’s Basketball Head Coach Geno Auriemma, specifically Auriemma’s appearance on Zach Lowe’s podcast all the more baffling. Is McEnroe simply following the easiest path to page views and the ensuing internet water cooler conflict? Or is he truly misguided enough to conflate profanity with belligerence; openness with drunkenness; and a coach of proud, accomplished women with a misogynist bully?

It may sound like I’m insulting McEnroe when I question if he deliberately misunderstands these concepts in service of his advertisers. That sure sounds like lying (it’s pretty close!), and when doing it in a public forum like the Courant, it’s crass and offensive. But, on the other hand, it’s more concerning to think that McEnroe is fatuous enough to actually believe what he wrote.

This is not a difficult concept to understand. Gatti, while committing a number of crimes in the lead up to what is now his third arrest in the last 13 months, verbally and physically abused a school employee, behaved belligerently, and was handcuffed and dragged out of the building by campus police (but not before getting in one last insult – spitting in the face of the dining hall manager as the latter was trying to give him his key lanyard).

Auriemma went on a podcast, answered questions honestly, but provocatively, and used some dirty language at Lowe’s encouragement – and with ample fair warning for any puritan audience members to turn off the episode. He said that women who complain about people not taking women’s sports seriously who then fail to support it are hypocrites. He says that fans who complain about the best team in the sport whether they win, lose, or (more likely) win in a blowout are obnoxious. He bristles at criticism that he only wins because he gets the best players (objectively not the case, but even if it were, recruiting is part of being a great coach).

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In the end, what McEnroe is failing to grasp (intentionally or not) is that Auriemma doesn’t need his, or my, or anyone else’s approval to be recorded on the internet criticizing people who criticize him. So no, he doesn’t need “excuses.” He’s expressed his opinion publicly while outlining truths borne out by facts (excluding what is most likely hyperbole about Tom Brady’s stats this season), albeit profanely.

For all the talk about “excuse-making,” I didn’t see much of it. People don’t have a problem with what Auriemma said because – for the most part – people agree with him, they aren’t childish enough to be offended by swears, and it’s entertainment.

People have a problem with what Gatti did because it was abuse from an entitled, rich brat who’s already gotten too many chances to learn to act like a human – certainly more than are afforded to most people.

As for the internet tough guys who all sat safely behind their computers while fantasizing about how they would have shown that little shit what’s what, no one is impressed, and they are a stain on humanity. Yet McEnroe misses the point here, too, as Auriemma was campaigning against that very behavior, occasionally using the trolls’ own vitriolic language against them. I would think McEnroe would stand firmly behind that, and behind the respect and equality that Auriemma is seeking on behalf of the immensely talented women athletes that he has dedicated his career to advancing.

If McEnroe can’t handle profanity, then he should say that. If he was looking for a flashy hook to dangle in the face of an easily-provoked audience, he should say that too. If he truly believes that a coach using profanity rises to the same criminal level of a belligerent, abusive drunk, then he should take some time to recalibrate his outrage settings.

For more, see Ally Auriemma’s thoughts.