In Sports

Chaney's dukes-up attitude on the court isn't too different off the court.

Temple's cantankerous John Chaney fulfills Old Man Syndrome status

When Temple's John Chaney blew his basketball gasket and "sent in the goon" (his words) to wreak havoc against 'cross-town Philly rival St. Joe's a few weeks ago, perhaps the biggest surprise was that something like this didn't happen sooner.

The warning signs were all there with the increasingly cantankerous local legend. He had baited the crowd at a team dinner over politics when he started railing on how much he hated the state of Ohio for re-electing George W. Bush to a second term. One red-stater rose to the bait, and a shouting match ensued. The 70-something-year-old coach then challenged the fan to a fight outside in the parking lot.

Yes, a fight.

It was a telling prelude to what later happened on the court. In the process of getting beat for the sixth consecutive time by the well-coached Hawks under Phil Martelli, something in Chaney's head said: "Well, we might not be able to beat you. But we can always fight!"

If you can't win an election, pick a fight. If you can't beat a rival, pick a fight. Notice a trend here? And in the post-action excuses for each incident, Chaney fell back upon the moral high ground of "fighting against injustice."

Bush got us into a reckless war in Iraq, and Martelli's club sets illegal screens. Chaney is certain of these two things. Certain. So certain, in fact, that he'll fail to even see the three million more Americans who voted for Bush than Kerry, or the otherwise impartial referees determining who is fouling whom on the basketball court.

"They are wrong; I am right."

Sadly, this kind of thinking tends to happen when you get to his station in life. Chaney has what can best be described as a severe case of O.M.S.

"Old Man Syndrome."

Normally, OMS is a relatively benign affliction. It manifests itself when say, your grandfather starts ranting about why the government still subsidizes Amtrak and PBS. OMS will cause you to start flagrantly disobeying the "15 Items or Less" sign at the supermarket.

Old men do this because they've been around the block long enough to know that there's no holding cell in the back of the Safeway for violators of this "rule." In fact, who has ever seen a checkout clerk even make a customer scoop up his groceries off the belt and back out of the line because of it?

So the idea of "consequence free" rule breaking (or bending) becomes a rather appealing (if not somewhat intoxicating) way of life for geezers with OMS. Half the time, old men get away with stuff just because they are old, and we feel pity for them.

An old guy cuts in front of you at the gas pump. What are you gonna do? Kick his ass? Most of us are just glad he didn't sideswipe our door while trying to see over the dashboard. So we let it go.

The problem comes when ordinary OMS takes hold in a legendary coach who is already coddled and accommodated and excused for all sort of transgressions large and small. One of the reasons Chaney was both brazen and (initially) unapologetic about his hardwood marauder tactic is the fact that nobody had ever stood up to him before. So why would they now?

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