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One of the sad realities in the world of competitive athletics is that there are only so many spots on any given team. Every kid who wants to play Little League baseball normally gets his or her chance, but as children grow older and progress to school teams, inevitably, coaches must make cuts. Life for those with professional dreams only becomes harsher as one passes through high school and moves on to the quasi-elite collegiate level, and as talent levels near the top of the proverbial athletic pyramid, room at the apex becomes scarce. The game cannot go on forever, and, regardless of whether one thinks it is his or her time, at some point most need to let go of the dream and become fans.
Or, take the approach of Andrew Giuliani, and quite literally, make a federal case out of it.
Giuliani, the twenty-two year old son of the former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, filed suit against Duke University where, prior to his senior year, he was a member of the varsity golf team. The rising senior was dismissed from the team last February, allegedly without cause, and subsequently filed suit “to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else at Duke.” The 198 page complaint alleges that Duke Golf Coach O.D. Vincent “illegally terminated” Giuliani, and claims breach of contract as well as bad faith interference with Giuliani’s dreams of one day becoming a professional golfer. The suit also claims that the proferred reasons for Giuliani’s dismissal, which included allegations that Giuliani flipped a putter, broke a driver, walked ahead of his playing partner on one occasion, played too rough during a golf-team football game, gunned his engine while leaving the golf facility’s parking lot, and threw an apple in the face of a teammate, were not sufficient to justify the cut, and that Giuliani should have been given a chance to defend himself. Giuliani, who claims that he had little choice but to sue Duke University, is seeking unspecified compensatory damages and free access to Duke’s golf facilities for the rest of his life.
As this story develops, athletes across the nation must be asking themselves one question . . . is he serious?
Every coach involved in every sport at every university across America has been put in the unenviable position of having to tell a young person that he or she did not make the cut. O.D. Vincent has only been Duke’s golf coach for a year, and made the undoubtedly difficult decision to reduce the 14 man roster roughly by half. Although the behavioral incidents that Vincent cited in justifying Giuliani’s release have been criticized, the cold, hard truth was that shrinking the roster meant that some golfers would not be invited back, and Giuliani’s competition scoring average ranked 12th out of 14 on the team.
In addition, before finalizing the termination, Giuliani was given one last opportunity by Vincent: if every player wrote a letter it support of Giuliani, Vincent would reinstate him, but if one declined the chance, the removal would stand. Instead of giving their support, five of Giuliani’s teammates wrote emails supporting Giuliani’s termination. One teammate in particular described Giuliani as “rude, impolite, and a disturbance to our team.”
One would hope that the message would reverberate loud and clear, and Giuliani would accept the team’s decision and learn from the experience. Instead, the situation has taken another turn for the absurd. Giuliani’s mother, Donna Hanover, recently cited a 2004 picture as evidence that Vincent has “poor judgment.” The picture, which was featured in Golf Digest Magazine and shows the UCLA Men’s Golf Team with their pants down, was approved by Vincent during his tenure as UCLA’s coach. The photo, taken for a prestigious magazine, was well received by UCLA’s golf team, who stated that they were proud for having been selected for the picture.
In days where the actions of athletes are held under a microscope to gauge the example they set for America’s youth, what message is Giuliani sending to the kids? Life does not always work out the way people want, and rejection and failure are lessons that everyone must learn at some point along the way. Blaming someone else, and demanding recompense through a federal lawsuit is nothing short of sour grapes. When one considers that Giuliani’s pro prospects are largely unaffected by his college career, and that Duke’s facilities are generally open to the public (with the exception of a small area reserved for the team), the lawsuit begins to look more and more like a 198 page temper-tantrum. In a realm where hard work, dedication, and being a team player are desirable traits, actions such as Giuliani’s stand in stark contrast to the ideals of the athletes whom Giuliani wishes to emulate. And as the Giuliani camp continues the attempt to tarnish O.D. Vincent’s reputation, one cannot help but wonder whether they realize which party looks more foolish.
- Ed Wenger
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/annais/52300475/
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