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Dan Devine

Finally, Charles Grodin has weighed in on Jerry Sloan's yelling

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Want to know something about we three kings of the sovereign nation of Ball Don't Lie? We all dig Charles Grodin. Fearless Leader Kelly enjoys digging in the YouTube crates for clips of the gifted actor and comedian "drying it up" as a guest on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" or "Late Night with David Letterman." Eric feels that Grodin is a criminally underrated genius. I thought he was pretty great in "Clifford." We're all full-fledged wearers of Gro-Gro boots.

For the better part of the past two decades, Grodin's career has shifted to the realm of commentary — first as the host of a CNBC talk show, then as a contributor to "60 Minutes II" and CBS Radio, and now as a columnist for the New York Daily News, where he recently shared a take on Jerry Sloan, who last week stepped down from his long-held post as the head coach of the Utah Jazz.

The impetus for Grodin's seemingly curious interest in Sloan was a piece written by former Salt Lake Tribune reporter Phil Miller and published in the New York Times. In it, Miller describes the coach he came to know while covering the Jazz from 2002 to 2007, explaining that "the sideline lunatic of popular perception ... is almost the antithesis of the off-the-court Sloan." Despite his penchant for screaming at players and ranting at referees, Miller wrote, Sloan "was loved, or at least respected, by nearly everyone he came in contact with during his coaching tenure, the longest in NBA history."

The "tone of fondness" in Miller's story apparently stuck in Grodin's craw, because he responded with a 167-word column, published under the headline, "There's never an excuse to scream and yell at people," in which the actor tsk-tsks coaches for yelling, I guess?

Personally I would have difficulty in having fondness for someone, who screams at his players and rants at referees -- not unusual in that profession. Jerry Sloan once pushed a woman referee, which got him a seven day suspension.

Off the court, he was described as witty and self depreciating even humble, always ready to sign autographs.

Frankly, I don't care what other sides you have, if you scream and yell at people. I don't see being a sports coach as an excuse.

Hmm. OK. A few things about this:

This could be a joke. As we've discussed, Charles Grodin has made a career of being very, very good at being wry. It appears unlikely that he's writing this from an ironic distance, because almost none of his other Daily News columns seem to come from that perspective, but we must at least consider the possibility that someone who was professionally funny for many years is intending to be humorous.

This could be relevant to the contemporary political climate. Grodin could be piggybacking on the post-Obama-in-Arizona clamor for increased civility in American society and public discourse. If so, shrewd, topical and refreshing.

This isn't wrong. Yelling at people is mean. Stop being mean, jerks individuals with whom I disagree.

Still, this doesn't really do or say much of anything, and certainly doesn't advance a discussion about appropriate methods of communication.

"People shouldn't yell."

Yes, but sometimes, depending upon the circumstances, maybe they should. There are occasions in which considered and mitigated negative reinforcement can serve as a strong motivator, especially for individuals who don't respond well to positive reinforcement. Also, sometimes people get mad and express it loudly, because that is a fact of being a human being.

"..."

The point of this column appears to be, "I am identifying a thing I don't like." Duly noted, sir. A thing I don't like is feeling itchy, if you'd like to know.

Courtney Kirkland, the ref that Sloan shoved in 2003, is a dude. Yep. Definitely a guy. He has a name that is shared by many females, Mr. Grodin, but he's a guy. (PRO TIP: So is Courtney Lee(notes).) This doesn't make Sloan shoving him utterly pardonable, but I'm sure the author would agree that one grown man shoving another grown man is nowhere near as objectionable as a grown man shoving a woman. Also, that's a pretty easy fact to get right.

Yes, Jerry Sloan has a reputation for being cantankerous, for swearing a bunch and for not always being the kindliest sort. He probably shouldn't yell at people as much as he did when was coaching professional basketball. But with all due respect, Mr. Grodin probably shouldn't decide he "doesn't care what other sides" a person has when he doesn't actually know any of the sides that person has; otherwise, he'll wind up writing more weird 167-word columns about almost nothing.

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