A Gameday Portrait – Kansas Coach Bill Self: What are we not seeing?

The most fascinating aspect of a serial killer is their familiarity. Assumedly, they wake up, they pick an outfit for the day, they eat meals, and they probably have a hobby, like reading Garth Ennis comic books or perfecting their homemade salsa recipe. People who argue that serial killing is the most fascinating aspect of a serial killer are either ignoring the narcissistic nature of man or underrate the importance of familiarity in earning attention, probably both. Green ketchup wasn’t interesting because it was green, but rather because it was ketchup, America’s 3rd favorite condiment (behind Mayo, and—cue twilight zone music—salsa). Ketchup isn’t supposed to be green. Ketchup is red. If Heinz had produced green jeotgal, no one notices. No one cares.

Society’s aggregated comfort with expectations often hides the differences that make people extraordinary. With a suit, a debatably fake haircut and a paunch that could belong to your grandpa’s neighbor from Okmulgee, society could not be more comfortable with Bill Self. He’s totally the kind of guy that you could find yourself sitting next to at an Applebee’s bar discussing which Riblet’s sauce is the best. What he totally isn’t is the kind of guy that would point out the difference between Applebee’s Riblets and real riblets because he’s not a weirdo. He’s so ordinary. See the stammering interviews, hear the plugs for the Salty Iguana and speak about his conceivable opinions on Riblets. Given his situation, isn’t this how an ordinary person is expected to be?

But then there’s this. He’s a total weirdo. His normalcies somehow obscure the obvious fact that no one else is in his same situation. No one else is the highest paid state employee in Kansas. No one else is going to win a 10th straight conference title. No one else landed the most hyped high school prospect of the last 10 years. This is the most frustrating thing about Bill Self. He must be extraordinary, but try to hash out the reason and it will inevitably become a recitation of “The Nine Things Successful People Do,” an article written by smart people to help normal people be better than average people. That’s not a recipe for creating an extraordinary person, it’s a diagnosis of a their symptoms. And despite the cliché, every division I basketball coach is giving that “little extra”, so there must be something else to Bill Self. He’s not a normal coach, so what’s abnormal about him? Frustrating.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A fox in the hen house. A serial killer living amongst us is a common (and fun) trope of television. The juxtaposition of being completely normal and completely different pleases our narrative palette like the best salty sweets. Comparing Bill Self to a serial killer will only make a tiny bit of sense if his career takes a Bob Knight-like turn into maniacal competitiveness. There’s an infuriated smirk Self puts on his face when his team is playing at its worst that suggests it’s possible, but the analogy is extreme and grotesque and ignores number 7 on the successful people symptoms list, “build your willpower muscle.” Mob Boss then. Coaches are kind of like that already. Nick Saban could be Michael Corleone and Tom Thibodeau is definitely Tony Soprano. John Calipari and Rick Pitino are factually (probably) frontmen for the Dixie Mafia. So maybe Bill Self is just a more refined spin on the underground CEO. Maybe he’s Vito Corleone, a man who built his empire on a foundation of favors and kindness so renowned that all inquiries of his methods uncovered was gratitude. And Maybe he’s not. He’s probably not. I’m just trying to please that silly narrative palette I just mentioned.

Bill Self is extraordinary. You’re familiar with this fact. It’s the most frustrating thing about him because you can’t figure out why he’s so extraordinary. And maybe we’ve discarded the importance of what we already know. Bill Self is extraordinary, and whether its mob bosses or serial killers, the best are never caught.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s