The rabbi, the coach and the media


By the Boiling Point Editorial Board

There are few figures at school more beloved than Coach Ryan Coleman. Adored for his devotion to his players, revered for his basketball intellect, he of course would be upset when he had good reason to believe that the coach of a rival school — and someone he’d considered a friend– had been helping an opponent defeat his varsity team. And doing it in a way that exceeded interscholastic norms.

Of course Coach Ryan talked to Rabbi Segal. Of course Rabbi Segal shared his feelings. And in Rabbi Segal’s view, the fact that the offending coach worked for another Jewish school elevated the offense to the status of a chillul Hashem — a desecration of God’s name — because members of the Jewish community should not harm or speak ill of each other.

The Boiling Point Editorial Board heard from many quarters that its coverage caused criticism of Coach Ryan. It was Rabbi Segal who made the decision to change our relationship with Valley Torah basketball, but the click culture picked up on Coach Ryan — whose stellar reputation reaches far beyond Shalhevet’s walls — and made him into a sore loser and worse. On social media, a toxic meme can spread forever while the thorough, lucid and balanced story behind it, though still visible online, is obscured in oversimplification and slander — drawing attention to a story, but not necessarily the facts.

Welcome to 2019.

Journalism is a risky business. Social media make it moreso. This danger is ever the more present outside our immediate community among people who do not know figures like Coach Ryan and might make assumptions that those of us who know him personally would not consider. The Boiling Point, too, became a target. One meme showed a bank of computers being managed by a clown, with the title, “The Boiling Point working on its next story on Valley Torah.” Another showed someone putting Boiling Points in the trash.

This sort of thing doesn’t hurt the Boiling Point. But some believe it could hurt Coach Ryan — who had every right to share his concerns with his head of school.

It is difficult to prevent any of this and still cover the news.

There are plenty of stories the Boiling Point doesn’t cover — why certain teams are not invited back to Glouberman, for example, or embarrassing accidental occurrences on social media, or students receiving consequences for bad behavior. But this one involved the entire Los Angeles Orthodox community, almost all of which is invested one way or another in high school basketball. We are a news source for that community.

We trust that Rabbi Segal would only call an opposing coach’s actions a chillul Hashem and cancel regular-season games if there was good reason. We encourage our readership to take this information into account when choosing how to assess blame in this situation, though with some of the evidence held back, this is a bit harder to do.

Still, while it’s easy to look for reasons to blame authority figures with whom one disagrees, we should strive to see the best in those who have made their lives’ work education and leadership. That includes coaches, and rabbis.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority view of the members of the Editorial Board, which consists of the Co-Editor-in-Chiefs,  Web Editor-in-Chief, Community Editor, Art and Design Director and Faculty Advisor. We welcome submissions for signed editorials from members of the Shalhevet Community, and the final decision about printing them is made by the Editorial Board. Submissions should be emailed to [email protected].

Click here to read other BP unsigned editorials.