It recently came to my attention, through the technological wonder of our Disqus-powered comments section, that Beth Pritchard (or someone claiming to be Beth Pritchard, mother of Tom) dropped a note under the much-discussed open thread Alex composed about this coming season.
In fairness to Mrs. Pritchard, I won’t quote her directly, as I doubt she intended her post to be specifically on-record. But her message, a response to the open-ended question of expectations for this coming season, was basically this: Expect the Hoosiers, every one of them, to work hard and play hard every night, and appreciate them for that.
A simple message, really, and a predictable one. It’s completely fair for a parent to want to defend their child, and their child’s friends.
It also raises a valid point.
Yes, these kids have a burden of expectation placed on them. A basketball scholarship at Indiana does that.
But too often, it feels like we take out our frustrations on these players not because of what they do or do not do on the court, but simply because we need something to yell at. Indiana basketball isn’t Indiana basketball right now, and it’s frustrating, and we as human beings like to, want to, need to blame someone. There surely is no more visible target, outside of Tom Crean himself.
But is it Tom Pritchard’s fault that Indiana is where it is? No. Is it Verdell Jones’ fault? No. Daniel Moore’s? Absolutely not.
The current predicament Indiana basketball finds itself in is lamentable, whether you are a fan or not. It’s never pleasant to watch a castle burn to the ground, and thus is the way with a storied college sports program.
And it’s not the fault of any one person, but rather years — more than a decade, probably — of mismanagement and neglect. Set in motion by complacency, complicated by strife and ultimately done in by scandal, Indiana’s problems are far-reaching, and long-term.
Have their been missteps? Well, of course there have. And there are parties involved that bear the responsibility for those, if they set the program back.
But Indiana’s players haven’t really done much but turn up with shoes and shorts whenever they were told, and tried their level best. I would imagine there have been times each has perhaps not given everything they had, in that particular moment. But on the whole, this is a group that plays hard and looks, for the most part, like it’s at least trying to do things the right way.
So let’s stop punishing them for that which they cannot control. Let’s stop punishing them for something that just isn’t their fault.