Sunday, December 18, 2011

Common roots

The way I see it, American sports fans can be divided into two groups: those who think that Bob Knight is a jerk and those who hold him in high regard.

Count me among the latter.

Maybe I like Bob Knight for the same reason that I like Woody Hayes -- that is, I'm practiced at looking past irascible demeanor and forgiving childish outbursts. Or perhaps it's because Knight and I both were born in Massillon, albeit 17 years apart, and we grew up surrounded by the same Heartland culture.

The story of his formative years is familiar to me, as mine would be to him. Less than nine miles of Ohio countryside separates the brick ranch-style house of his childhood and the brick cape where I spent my own. I know well the crackerbox high-school gym where he was a star -- years later I played there, too, once or twice each season.

This morning's edition of The Columbus Dispatch features an article about the coaching icon's loyalty to his hometown of Orrville. Dispatch scribe Todd Jones writes of this rural company town as the source of Knight's unshakable pride and old-school values. It's a great piece, no doubt introducing many readers to another side of the man.

Not me -- Bob Knight and I share the same Heartland roots.