Though ESPN announcer Craig James has not made it into the College Football Hall of Fame yet and probably will never be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he can at least say he made it into another Hall—the Helicopter Parent Hall of Fame. Uncoolmom.com hosts the only Hall of Fame of that kind—and James is the first high-profile name to join its illustrious ranks.
Why choose him? For those of you not into sports (like me) or more specifically, college sports (like me), here’s my “plain English” version that I hope will keep you reading to the end, a classic tale of a privileged kid who acts like a spoiled brat and the parent who keeps enabling him, to the detriment of not only the child but the world around him:
Texas Tech University had a football coach named Mike Leach. From 2000 ‘til late 2009, he became the winningest coach in the school’s 85-year history. (From my research, it looks like he really gave ticket holders their money’s worth—numerous come-from-behind victories where the Red Raiders are about to lose by a lot and they go on to win by huge point spreads…the kind of team even I could enjoy watching…like the one in that old Disney movie “The Absent Minded Professor”! J) Even so, certain Texas Tech administrators and high-rolling boosters didn’t like Leach. Go figure.
Leach had a receiver (um, I mean “player”) named Adam James. Born in the Dallas suburb of Plano, which is full of 5A high schools (that means big high schools with money to build powerhouse football teams and lots of kids trying out for a spot), it is rumored that his daddy, former NFL player, college football star and now ESPN broadcaster Craig James, had the family move to the tiny town of Celina, TX (pop. 1,861) so Adam could also be a star athlete, at a 2A school (that means pretty small high school, with less competition to make it on a team). Doesn’t look like he was much of a star, since he got no football offers from NCAA Division 1 colleges—except from Leach and Texas Tech, and that was after daddy talked to the coach and showed him a tape of his son, and after Adam had played baseball at Tech a few months but quit out of frustration at not getting enough playing time. You’d think the kid would have been grateful to have been given a second chance, but instead, teammates and coaches described him as “lazy on a daily basis”, “always trying to get by with doing the least he possibly could”, and continuously disrespectful of coaches. Teammate Graham Harrell recalled, “Adam was a kid that seemed like he had been given everything he wanted his whole life and acted like if things did not go exactly how he wanted, someone was treating him unfairly or someone needed to be blamed for his failures. He was a selfish player on and off the field that was counter-productive for our team and would be for any other team.” Adam’s behavior once again resulted in him getting only a little bit of playing time. And Craig James went spaz, showing up at practices, constantly wanting to discuss his son and his playing time, leaving angry voice mails on coaches’ phones that they were “screwing his kid” and that Adam James was the best player on the team in his position—a textbook example of “blackhawk down” helicopter parenting, not allowing kids to “make it on their own” to the extent that a parent follows a kid into adulthood!! “He required more time than all other parents combined,” said Leach in an ESPN interview. What good character-building could have happened, if Craig James had only let his son fail and move on.
But Adam and his daddy doctored a story that at the least seems intended for revenge, and at the worst intended to get Leach fired. Apparently Adam had been recovering from a concussion (Harrell says he often had questionable “injuries”) and showed up one day in sunglasses, street clothes and his hat turned backwards (“pants on the ground”? J) saying he needed to stay out of sunlight. Leach asked him to at least walk around the field, but apparently he didn’t want to do that, or even wear the team workout attire, so Leach asked his staff to find a dark room where Adam could spend time while the team practiced. They found an equipment shed near the field with an ice machine, and checked on him every 15 minutes. On another occasion, he was asked to again spend practice in the dark, this time in an air conditioned press room, with access to a stationery bike. But the James gang told Tech administrators a story almost as if Adam’s confinement was a torture chamber… a tight, dark, locked, electrical closet. It was just what the Tech lynch mob was looking for. Though team trainers and doctors back up Leach’s actions and approved of Adam’s treatment, Leach was fired, a few days shy of receiving a scheduled $800,000 bonus. I’m sure it’s not the first time a helicopter parent has caused a teacher or coach to get fired– but the winningest coach in a Big 12 college’s history? Definitely worthy of the HP Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, Leach is suing the school, Adam is still on the team, and Craig James is making speeches about…running as a possible conservative candidate for the U.S. Senate. Guess he wants to spread his “family values” even further…