Note to Self: Keep Your Clothes On!

Some coaches are legendary for their responses when they are upset about a call. Brian Kelly’s face turns 50 shades of purple in anger. Bobby Knight kicked a chair across the court.

But I can’t say I’ve ever seen this one before.

Two Mongolian wrestling coaches recently stripped off their clothing to protest a call by officials. Amazingly, this was the Olympics, not WWE.

This is how ESPN’s Wayne Drehs explains it:

As Mongolia’s MandakhnaranGanzorig rolled around the mat in frustration, one of his coaches stomped to the judges’ table and slammed his hands on the mat. Then he ripped his shirt off, flexed his muscles and roared, much to the delight of the crowd. From there, a second Mongolian coach came over, pulled his shirt off and then went one step further and dropped his pants. He picked up his pile of clothes and dumped them on the judges’ table.

Almost as revealing — pun intended — was the reaction by Mongolian coach Byambarenchin Bayarra when Ganzorig then lost his chance at a bronze medal. Bayarra said, “This is the only time in history of wrestling with point penalty.”

I don’t have the most extensive wrestling knowledge after I stopped my illustrious career as an 89-pound seventh grader, but considering the long list of infractions that warrant penalty points, something tells me that this was not the first time in history.

It’s easy to laugh at this whole incident (and I think that was ESPN’s intent, considering they don’t often cover Mongolian wrestlers). But I’m the one who is foolish if I do not learn something from it. I may not remove my clothes in public when I’m upset about something, but I can also act ridiculously and blame others for my own errors.

Here are a few examples:

  1. For years, I told myself that I could not speak French because I had a bad teacher in high school. She was more than adequate; I was simply lazy.
  2. I often blame my lateness on traffic. Yes, traffic exists in cities. That’s why prudent people leave early. I am often not one of those.
  3. I have complained about my community at various points of my Jesuit life. I have been with (fellow!) imperfect people, but I would have a much richer sense of community if I took the effort to get to know these guys.

***

The Mongolian coach/stripper went on to say, “Three million people in Mongolian waited for this bronze medal and now we have no medal.”

But countries do not deserve medals based on how many people they have, just as I did not deserve to speak French because I sat through four years of classes.

Inevitably, some things will not go the way we hoped or expected, whether it’s at the Olympics or in the classroom. But then how do we respond? By making excuses? Deflecting blame? Or learning from the incident and then doing all we can?

Perhaps these Mongolian coaches — and all of us who point the finger at someone else — could learn from the greatest wrestler of the twentieth century, Dan Gable.1

Gable never lost a wrestling match in high school and started his college career by going 117-0. But then he lost his very final collegiate match in the NCAA finals. Rather than making excuses, however, Gable trained like never before. His daily goal was “to work so hard in practice that someone would have to carry me off the mat.”

And what happened? He won the gold medal at the 1972 Olympics without giving up a single point!

It looks like Mongolia could use some new wrestling coaches. While I doubt Gable would move to Mongolia,2 perhaps they should ask him. They couldn’t find anyone better. After his own wrestling career, Gable coached at three Olympics and became the most successful coach in American collegiate history.

Plus, he kept his clothes on.

  1.  According to Gannett News
  2.  Especially because that would mean leaving Heaven on Earth, AKA Iowa City, AKA my hometown

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