Yesterday’s post has stirred 3 people (so far) to write me privately to disagree with the position I took on the blog. I might argue that one of them (the one who wrote me the “good riddance” note that my post was based upon) was simply being defensive, but alas 3 similar responses preclude me from being able to hide in such an explanation!
Each of the 3 notes have slight differences, but the essence is the same: Rodriguez was being paid nearly $2 million a year, and one of the downsides you accept when you are paid this way is to have to deal with such scrutiny and consequences.
OK, I get it. The argument makes sense, I understand that with great income comes great risk and consequences for failure. And I am not arguing that in any way Michigan should have done anything differently, with the notable exception of hiring him in the first place.
What I am saying is that it’s a sad situation all around, and as a sports and Michigan fan I can be pleased that Rodriguez is no longer the coach, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have significant sympathy for he and his family. I’m not saying hire him back, I’m not saying give him a bigger severance, and I’m not saying he didn’t fail.
There is a human element here, as there is in so many other situations with public figures, and I know that I for one sometimes lose sight of that fact.
Some examples. Lindsay Lohan. Now here’s a woman with millions in the bank, beautiful, and a strong acting resume, who is just out of her second stint in rehab and about to face yet another probation violation. We can have one of three general reactions to her situation.
First, we can tell ourselves she had it all and screwed it up and she is an idiot and deserves everything that comes to her. We read the latest headline, say to ourselves “what a jerk, put her in jail forever”, and move on with our day.
The second option is to just feel sorry for her and perhaps find a set of explanations and excuses for why she is the way she is, and withhold accountability.
But I would opt for the third option: That is, I think she is a fool who is destroying her career and her life, and I condemn her actions. But I feel sorry for her. I wish she could get help and find her way back to stability and happiness. I imagine the magnitude of what she squandered and have disdain for her, and I also imagine the human suffering that must be going on inside of her. Rich, beautiful, talented, yet it must be horrifying for her to look at herself in the mirror.
It’s this human suffering side I’m referring to with RichRod and his family. Surely he decided to play in the big leagues and was paid handsomely for it. Just as surely his heart is broken, his self confidence damaged, his professional future is in question. He looks back on the last 3 years of his life, thinks about what he poured into the program (60 hour weeks, his heart and soul, time away from his family). Worse, his wife and children are suffering the combination of sadness for their father, embarrassment for their family, and great consternation and anxiety wondering where they will live next as they pull up the roots and friendships that were just taking hold in Ann Arbor. And as a father who likely assumes it is he who is responsible for providing his family stability and happiness, how must this add to his burden?
Good riddance? For the program, yes I suppose so. But if he was my neighbor, my wife and I would be at his house offering to help and just spending time with them, having our kids reach out to his to find things to keep them busy, happy, and feeling as optimistic as possible. I would not drive by his house, roll down my window, and yell “good riddance”.