Steve Chapman

The National Football League has its quota of professional whiners, particularly receivers who demand an interference call anytime a cornerback says, "Good afternoon." But many of the worst displays come from coaches who insist they can see things from 60 yards away that an official with a closeup view has inexplicably missed.

The college ranks are also not immune: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier recently speculated that his team had gotten some calls because the refs thought it would be fun to stick it to him, which suggests he spends too much time hanging out in Area 51.

It was not always thus. In the old days, the Dallas Cowboys had a coach named Tom Landry, whose expression and demeanor couldn't have varied less, win or lose, if he had been embalmed. One observer marveled that he contemplated the game as though he were admiring the paintings in an art museum.

Somewhere along the line, Landry must have gotten the idea that he couldn't accomplish anything by throwing tantrums. Or maybe that the referees were doing their best and, like players and coaches, were burdened by human fallibility. This weird maturity didn't keep him from taking the Cowboys to five Super Bowls.

Landry may have also recognized the wisdom of what another football coach, Lou Holtz, said during his time at Notre Dame: "Don't tell people your problems, because 90 percent don't care and the other 10 percent are glad you got them." That, of course, goes double when your audience is wearing a striped shirt.

Professional athletes and coaches wouldn't be where they are if they didn't have the capacity for extraordinary feats. So here's one some of them should try: Tie your tongue in a knot. Then go do your job.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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