Columns » John Brummett

What the judge should say

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U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson could put the Nolan Richardson trial out of our misery tomorrow. If only he would "rulify," to use his word, as follows:"I've been watching you, Mr. Richardson. You'll notice I call you Mister. The lawyers have been sounding like second-string waterboys throwing around this 'Coach' appellation. 'Coach' is a job, not a title, and not a very important one at that. And you're not even a coach anymore. "Day after day you've sat there on the front row and rolled your eyes, shaken your head, laughed derisively and, on at least one occasion, turned to your lovely wife and said not inaudibly that Mr. Frank Broyles was lying. "That's not appropriate behavior. This is a court of law, and the person providing sworn testimony is not one of your players needing chewing-out or an official you're trying to work for a good call. "But it occurs to me that your inability to keep yourself hinged, your failure to keep your anger and bitterness unexpressed and your unwillingness to let an angry, disdainful or profane thought go unuttered in the most inappropriate places ... well, that's what got you fired and us here in the first place. "I am certain you have experienced racial injustice. I am so very sorry for that. I'm sorry a lot of white people were out to get you. You deserved a better legacy, maybe even that monument you once spoke of. "But it is pointless nonsense for you to ask me to put you back in a job you disparaged and in a place you ridiculed. "Yes, a black man has a lot to say about injustice, and he has every right of free speech. That means I can't throw you in jail for what you say. And I wouldn't. But it doesn't mean the University of Arkansas can't fire you when you say the university is a horrible place in a podunk town with an athletic fan base dominated by redneck SOBs. Especially if you say it in a year when your team isn't any good. "And you are not the ideal African-American man to come into federal court alleging racial discrimination in the work place, not when you get a check for $40,000 every month for doing nothing. "Now, as for you, Mr. Broyles: Only one thing leads me to believe your problem with Mr. Richardson was not a matter of race. It's that you've made a career as athletic director of not getting along with other spectacularly successful coaches, white ones, like Lou Holtz, Ken Hatfield, Eddie Sutton. They all won about as frequently as Mr. Richardson, and they all left approximately as unhappily. "I believe what happened here is that Mr. Richardson's unhinged expression of deep passion ran headlong into your own Grand Canyon of an ego. "I've seen that ego in this courtroom. You've talked over your attorney. You've talked over me. Sir, you appear to me to be a control freak. The other day you ran into Mr. John Walker outside the courtroom and told him, 'The only problem is that you've got 30 years on me.' Apparently you even fancy yourself as a courtroom rival of one of the fabled litigators of our time. "And as for you, Mr. Walker: It has become clear to me from your objections at 11-second intervals that you know you don't have a case and that you are building a broad, if maybe inch-deep, foundation for an appeal. I believe you simply want to keep this matter alive artificially, for whatever reason. "I'd like to do what I can to expedite your appeal. To that end, your case is hereby immediately dismissed. "This thing has almost been enough to turn me into an Arkansas State fan. If they were ever any good . . . "By the way, I'd like to see Mr. Chuck Dicus of the Razorback Foundation in chambers. I want to talk about that '69 game with Texas."

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