Chicago is home to the College of Cheering Coaches.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon is the president, praising his players so disproportionately to their abilities and accomplishments as to make them almost unrecognizable. Jake Arrieta was Bob Gibson, Javy Baez is Willie Mays and Kyle Schwarber will be a saint someday.
At least Maddon has good players. White Sox manager Rick Renteria continues to compliment players whose talents are compliment-resistant. Half of the players’ mothers describe their sons’ best attribute at the plate as ‘‘the umpires find him pleasant.’’
Although it’s early yet, our B.S. antennae are up for new Bears coach Matt Nagy, who, if handing out accolades were a river, already would be a Class VI whitewater rapid.
At what point do players stop buying this stuff?
How about now?
If athletes actually believe the sweet nothings coaches and general managers publicly purr about them, the Bryan Colangelo mess surely is giving them pause.
The wife of the 76ers president anonymously ripped several 76ers, including star Joel Embiid, and revealed players’ private medical histories, all through burner Twitter accounts. It’s why Colangelo is now the former 76ers president, having resigned Thursday.
Barbara Bottini, Colangelo’s wife, likely didn’t form those opinions on her own, nor did she come to the medical information independently. It doesn’t take much to picture Colangelo coming home and venting to his supportive wife about his day at the office. It either didn’t occur to him that she would tweet that Jahlil Okafor had failed another team’s physical (breaking news!) or he didn’t care if she did.
It doesn’t take a huge leap to suggest that coaches and GMs — human beings, just like Colangelo — share their deepest feelings with someone and that some of those feelings are unflattering indeed.
If the wreckage of Colangelo’s career in Philly doesn’t plant doubt in every locker room and clubhouse in the country, I’ll be surprised. One of the Twitter accounts attributed to Bottini called Embiid ‘‘selfish’’ and ‘‘a bit lazy.’’ It also suggested the 76ers big man was partying too much. Hmmm, where could that have come from?
The next time Maddon says wild pitcher Tyler Chatwood is making progress, will Chatwood see a thought bubble over his manager’s head that says, ‘‘If this guy walks one more hitter, I’m going to erupt’’? Post-Colangelo, he should.
The next time Renteria says that everyone on his team is an All-Star, as he did with a bad Cubs team in 2014, will all his players gag? Post-Colangelo, they should.
Having been in enough postgame bars through the years, I can tell you the nice things that are said in front of cameras and microphones sometimes are nowhere to be found after a coach has a few drinks in him a few hours later.
Having stood outside more locker rooms than anybody should have to, I can testify that, no matter what the manager might say publicly about his very wealthy underachiever, he sometimes screams something completely different before the players arrive in the clubhouse.
Could an athlete who is hitting .220 or averaging 2.1 yards per carry be so dumb as to believe the glowing praise that is coming out of his coach’s mouth? Yes, he could.
It’s a dance. Coaches and management say ridiculously good things about players because they want to plant good thoughts in players’ heads. Players embrace it because they need mental reinforcement, especially these days.
• Bryan Colangelo resigns as 76ers president after Twitter controversy
• 76ers investigating tweets from burner accounts linked to Bryan Colangelo
There’s so much criticism out there — from fans, opposing players and pesky newspaper columnists — that the last thing a player wants to worry about is whether the coach or GM is on his side. Blissful ignorance is necessary to survive in professional sports. Without it, some people would be basket cases.
So the GM tosses bouquets at a struggling player. It’s a pep rally aimed at one person. He buys it, again and again. How many times have we seen bad players be in complete shock after they’ve been cut or traded? Now they know what the team really thinks of them. So much for that nurturing culture the coach tried to foster.
For athletes, the Colangelo betrayal should be an eye-opener and an ear-opener: You can’t always trust people, especially the people who seem to be complimenting you the most.
Of course, it works both ways: Cubs players seem to love Maddon publicly, but what do they say to each other or those nearest to them about his crazed manager act? What do they say about their snatching victory from the Maddon-operated jaws of defeat in the 2016 World Series?
Sigh. I can see now that honesty could lead to complete chaos. For the sake of peace, perhaps everybody should keep sucking up to everybody else.
You’re my favorite readers.
Also, my wife doesn’t tweet. As far as I know.
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, or via RSS feed.