Whining about Winning: ‘Tis the Season for Hating John Calipari

John Calipari

Sheldon Hirsch wonders why John Calipari remains the subject of so much hatred when his Kentucky team enters the NCAA tournament at 34-0 just a year after finishing as the runner-up with a very different team.

Hirsch notes at Real Clear Sports’s Out in Right Field blog that last year, “Sports Illustrated named Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari among the most disliked people in sports,” adding that Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy mentioned accused rapist Bill Cosby in a column ripping Calipari.

Beyond this, Facebook hosts an “I Hate John Calipari” page. YouTube’s video of John Chaney telling Calipari “shut up,” “I’ll kill you,” and “I’m gonna kick your ass” attracts scores of comments from well-wishers cheering on the former Temple coach. And Twitter highlights, in 140 characters or less, the visceral hatred of one of the two coaches to lead three different schools to at least five Finals Fours.

Hirsch points out that the violations at two schools led by Calipari did not ensnare the coach and counters SI’s criticism of Calipari for his “position at the forefront of college basketball’s ‘one-and-done’ era.” “Yes, he has had more ‘one-and-done players’ in the last decade than anyone else,” he writes. “That infuriates people who dislike the rule, but it’s not Calipari’s rule; he simply functions under the rule given to him. In fact, he dislikes it, too, having publicly called for a change of the rule to require two years of college for players to enter the NBA Draft.”

It is difficult to escape the supposition that those who slam Calipari are, to put it baldly, jealous of his success. There seems to be a prevailing sentiment among many Americans that great success is achieved through some hidden nefarious practice. Witness the hue and cry over Deflategate, targeting those perennial winners in New England, the accusatory jump on the bandwagon when a baseball player enjoys outsized statistics, assuming that PEDs have been ingested, or charges of recruiting violations whispered whenever a university succeeds.

It’s not a stretch to extrapolate from the world of sports into the world at large. The class warfare championed by those envious of others who have accumulated great wealth is more often than not accompanied by suspicions that the wealth is ill-gotten.

In essence, Calipari suffers the indignity of being labeled as a cheater precisely because he succeeds. A more level-headed population might simply study the techniques of successful people and imitate them in order to succeed. Sadly, it’s much easier for those who indulge in moral lassitude to sit on their derrieres, claim inequity, and cry foul play.