The old expression goes, “I would rather tame a tiger than paint stripes on a pussy cat.”
Word is that officials from Saline Athletics Department and Saline Area Schools district are trying to tame the tiger known as Jacob Fosdick, coach of the Saline varsity basketball team.
First, let’s be thankful Fosdick is a tiger and not a pussy cat.
Yes, he’s a little demonstrative. Sure, he’s crossed enough virtual lines that Athletics Department staff had to tape real ones on the floor to contain Saline’s firebrand coach.
When Fosdick is unhappy with a call, everyone in the building knows it. He’s been on the receiving end of a couple technical fouls and his assistant coach and brother, Lucas, was tossed from a game while defending Jake during one altercation. The meltdown at home against Skyline is one reason why that game got so far out of hand. All the life got sucked out of the Saline basketball team at that moment and the Hornets limped to the final buzzer.
It was a grim reminder of Saline basketball before Fosdick’s arrival.
I’ve covered Saline basketball for seven years. It hasn’t been remarkable. I remember some good kids and nice coaches. But I don’t have many memories of games and moments like I do from football, cross country, swim and dive, baseball, softball and track and field.
Fosdick’s team is changing that. Make no mistake, he’s got a great team led by four seniors and an experienced junior. But these kids go through walls. Maybe, they do that because Fosdick goes up against that line.
The intensity of this team mirrors that of its coach.
Even Fosdick’s biggest critics, the officials, get this.
I spoke to a junior varsity official during a recent game. He remembers the same antics from Fosdick at the JV level.
“It’s a double-edged sword. Officials don’t like it. Two minutes into a game and he’s taking our heads off. So as officials, you start looking for it. He’s getting a lot of reputation calls,” the official said. “On the other hand, look at the way his team plays. They’re going balls out. Nobody works harder than his teams.”
Reputation calls are real. I wasn’t at the Bedford road game, but the word is that Saline had the game in hand before the officials decided to make Fosdick pay for a night of abuse. Then at home to Bedford on Feb. 10,, I’m fairly certain an official tried to goad Fosdick into his second technical of the night. Officials let both teams throw elbows and arms chops at each other all night. Then in in the fourth quarter, as the game spun away from Saline, one of the officials called a weak, phantom foul on offense. Then the official put the whistle in his mouth and sauntered over to the Saline bench.
He was goading Fosdick to unload on him. Fosdick looked like he might have a stroke biting his tongue, but he restrained himself and avoided the second technical and the ejection that comes with it.
So yeah, screaming at refs has a downside.
But let’s get back to the upside.
This team plays to win. This team shares the ball. This team fights for every inch on the court. This team sticks around on Tuesday nights to cheer on the girls. This team excels in the classroom. This team is never outworked or outhustled.
They’re fun to watch. Their energy is infectious. And for the first time in years, I’m not walking into a lifeless gymnasium on a Friday night in February.
The people telling Fosdick to cool it with officials are authority figures in Saline’s school district. And among many other things, schools teach children how to fall in line and bow to authority. It was only a matter of time before Fosdick’s altercations with officials got the district’s attention.
Fosdick is a young man. Age will eventually take some of his edge off. So will years of run-ins with authority figures. Instead of clamping down on Fosdick, sentence him to 60 days of officiating youth basketball.
In the meantime, be thankful for this tiger’s particular stripes and celebrate the passion that’s returned to Saline basketball.