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TWO VIEWS ON BOB KNIGHT'S SOVIET PULLOUT : Intolerance Grows With Each Sad Act

November 29, 1987|TONY KORNHEISER | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — We're here in the White House press briefing room awaiting the appearance of President Reagan, who will shortly introduce his new appointment to the United States team of arms negotiators in Geneva. . . .

Fitzwater: The president of the United States.

Reagan: Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you with good news. As you all know, for quite a while we've had a good team in Geneva, but not a great team. Now I think we do. After serious and fruitful discussions we've signed the big man we needed. A veteran of West Point, a student of military history, a sharp dresser, bold, proud, manly Bobby Knight. I plan on sending Bobby on missions of personal diplomacy that are handled best by good, old fashioned man-to-man conversation.

Knight: No zone. I'm tough.

Donaldson: Why Bobby Knight?

Reagan: I couldn't get Chuck Norris.

Knight: Looking at all you writers here, I'm reminded that we all learn to write in second grade, and then most of us go on to better things. I'm always pleased to represent my country. I've done it as a coach, now I'll do it as a diplomat. I love diplomacy. By the way, any Puerto Ricans here? No? Good. Some people can't take a joke.

Donaldson: Bobby! Bobby!

Knight: Nobody shouts at me. Sit down and shut up. Is that your real hair, or did a squirrel die on your head?

Wallace: Exactly what is your plan for Geneva?

Knight: It's four parts, and I'll go slow, just like I do with my freshmen: One, anybody I don't like, I stuff in a trash can. Two, anybody who touches me, I slap in the face. Three, if the negotiations are going badly, I throw a chair across the room, and, if I hit a Commie, so what? Four, anyone gives me any lip, I'm gone, and I'm taking the rest of the negotiators with me. No Commie punks are gonna make me look stupid.

Donaldson: No, that you can do yourself.

Wallace: Follow up, please?

Knight: Drop dead. Next.

Plante: If you hate communists so much, why do you wear red sweaters? And speaking of your sweaters, what particular fashion statement are you making by letting them ride so high on your stomach?

Knight: Where are you from, Women's Wear Daily? The red I wear is Indiana's red, not Moscow's red. Indiana was here long before communism. I give no aid, comfort or sales tax to the enemy. As for my girth, it's large because I've had a bellyful of stupid questions like yours.

Say good night, Rambo.

The encouraging aspect of the latest Bobby Knight Blows Up (Again) incident is that another batch of people have been added to the flock. As with every one of Knight's other examples of egregious misbehavior, folks who'd been reluctant to stand up to him before are saying, "This time he's gone too far."

Knight still controls some ardent defenders who lash out like trained dogs whenever he does something thoroughly cement-headed. Should Knight ever fire a shotgun into the stands they'll say it was a humanitarian act of thinning out the herd. But it's a war of attrition, and Knight's losing. We're moving inexorably toward the day when Knight will run out of rope on his bully pulpit, like Woody Hayes, another notorious wanna-be Patton.

Childishly yanking his team off the floor against the Soviet National Team the other day--down by 23 points, please note--showed that The Enfant Knight was going global again after a long period of restricting himself to domestic issues, like stuffing fans in garbage cans, smashing telephones and throwing chairs for distance and accuracy. Not since slapping a Puerto Rican policeman in the 1979 Pan Am Games had Knight reprised his Ugly American routine.

He was a comparative angel in the 1984 Olympics. But the Soviet Bloc boycott deprived him of ideological enemies, and winning games by 40 points may have dampened his enthusiasm for creating an international fracas. It's good to see the old boy back in stride. Take heart America, those Rooskies didn't beat Knight. There's still 15:05 left to play. Knight just ran out of clock--not to mention out of the gym.

Knight's hard-core footmen will try to cast his apology as something worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. Statesman Bobby Knight. For the record, Knight first blamed referee Jim Burr--whom Knight claims has it in for him to begin with--for instigating the incident by slapping Knight with a technical for being out of the coaching box even though Burr let the Soviet coach get away with the same infraction. So in Knight's view, he was unjustly provoked, and any subsequent breach of behavior is the ref's responsibility. Anyway, what's the big deal? It's just a bunch of foreigners. It's not like it's a Big Ten game.

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