Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Gad-Zooks! You're fired, but not yet

It was just a blip on the New York sports radar Monday morning, but it caused a stir in Florida and got me thinking.

Ron Zook was fired as head football coach at the University of Florida. Most of us in New York couldn't care less about this, unless of course:
a) We're displaced Floridians
b) We're displaced SEC football people
c) We care about the exciting sport of college football
d) We have friends in Lexington, Ky., or other assorted SEC towns with bad SEC football teams and quick access to e-mail
e) We gamble heavily
f) some combination of the above

However, the manner in which he was forced to start updating his resume (and burning every gametape from the past three seasons) is becoming a disturbing trend in sports. He was fired from his job and "allowed" to stay on to finish the remainder of the season. While this may not rival the Richie Phillips "We're all resigning" MLB umpire snafu from a few seasons ago (still the greatest labor move ever), it could be the stupidest thing in NCAA history, and that's no easy Top 25 list to crack.

Zook became the third major sports coach to get fired and still keep his job. Jim Fassel got canned with two weeks left for allowing his 2003 Giants, a Super Bowl contender in the preseason, to take a dump on the season. Stupidity finally caught up to Art Howe late in the Mets' 2004 season and he got booted out of Flushing but then was asked by management to be a pal and stick around for the final few weeks.

In a mad, mad world where the runner-up to a music contest still gets a record deal and every kid in Little League gets a trophy (even that rightfielder with the .023 average on a 1-15 team), losing a job and keeping it in the same conversation seems a little odd.

This is equivalent to getting fired by Donald Trump on "The Apprentice," then being allowed to still compete in the next three episodes. This is extending the 1994 NBA Finals to an eighth game because John Starks didn't shoot too well in Game 7 for the Knicks. This is Lindsay Lohan's new video not making the Top 10 on MTV's TRL, but still showing it anyway because she's hot. (Full disclosure: I voted for her video the other day. Hey, she's from Long Island.)

Zook was doing such a horrendous job at the University of Florida that the bosses at the University of Florida said FU, but could you please stick around for a few more weeks just to help out.

That's Lottodog in "8 Mile," telling B. Rabbit at the end of a rap battle, "I'll end this $--- with a [f-bomb] you, but have a nice day."

Why do these coaches think it's appropriate to hang around a place they're not wanted? It's almost as bad as watching old athletes not knowing when to quit, but definitely worse than B-level celebrities who refuse to acknowledge their "USA Up All Night" status.

It's not about finishing what you started, or saving face, or any of that glory of the game yang they peddle to reporters and fans. It's about doing a bad job and getting called out on it.

Close your eyes and imagine this scene. OK, wait a minute, keep your eyes open so you can read this. So, just imagine your boss sends you an e-mail to come chat in the office on payday. The boss then tells you that your next paycheck will come from the unemployment office. Do you then say, "OK, but can I still work here for a few weeks even though you just fired me and obviously think I'm not effective enough to keep working here?"

Not me. If my boss did that, I'd pack up my desk, reformat my hard drive, "misplace" the phone receiver, then go out blaze-of-glory style by dropping the kids off at the pool where the pool is the hood of the boss' car. (Note to boss: Just kidding, really. Just a fun little joke. C'mon, you know you laughed.)

And if the boss asked me, moments after removing me from the world of employment, to stick around a few more days to help out, I'd go Stone Cold. That's right, I'd drop a stunner on the boss, whip out a steel chair and start swinging, then crack open a Coors Light (in a can, of course) and scream "That's the bottom line" over and over again.

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