My father tells a great story about how he was trying to motivate an underachieving student. The student, a troublemaker--or more like troublemaker-light, was apparently bright but did not do any work. So, my dad calls in the student's father for a conversation.
This, I will digress, was always--among my peers at least, a genuine threat. When a teacher said, I'm going to speak to your parents, it was nervous time if you grew up in the fifties and early sixties. From what I have heard now the fear has reversed. Kids now tell the teachers that if they don't stop picking on them, they will tell their folks. And, as I understand it, in some school districts this threat can have the desired effects.
But back to the (true) story, my dad in what was probably 1959 tells the underperforming kid that he wants to speak to his parents. So in comes the father to talk to my dad about his son who is smart, but is not doing any work.
The dad listens to my dad and then responds evenly. "Mr. Zaremba, It's in da blood. My father was that way, I am that way, my kids are that way. It's in da blood."
When my father heard this response, he figured there was not much hope. If the dad thought it was in da blood, the kid was not going to do his homework.
Today, I was watching the halftime show of the Vermont--Stony Brook game. Stony Brook a team I predicted might go far in the big dance after I saw them play beautifully earlier this season, could not beat Vermont in the championship game that results in a ticket to the big dance. (The same Vermont team that lost to the previously winless Binghamton Bearcats two weeks ago).
During the halftime show the announcers played a tape of the Lamar coach berating his seniors after a tough loss. He attacked their character, their work ethic, and conjectured that his team might not win another game. The tape was played because since this public tongue lashing Lamar had not lost a single game, and in fact won again today to punch their ticket to the big dance that starts this week.
If you were a basketball fan, the words, the mannerisms, the motivational style of the coach doing the talking would have made you sweat just a little the way you do when you are stunned.
The coach was Pat Knight, the son of coach Bobby Knight, and son of a gun if it didn't seem as if Bobby Knight had gone to make-up and somehow come out looking like a thirty something year old.
Not all children behave like their parents, but in this case it was eerie watching this post game tirade and recalling just how the former Indiana coach would get on his players. For a terrific read about Bobby Knight's m.o. I suggest the book, A Season on the Brink which chronicles one of the Indiana seasons in the mid 80s. If today's video clip is available on youtube, take a look. Then tell me if, in this case at least, it's in da blood.