It’s difficult being the person in charge. The good bosses try to toe the line between being a friend and an employer who keeps the workplace as efficient as possible. However, you can’t please everyone, and there are different methods to getting optimal production. The head coach oversees many of the issues on and off the field that require their attention. How the person in charge handles situations is what endears them to players and co-workers on their coaching staff. The most appealing aspect of Netflix’s docu-series Last Chance U is the behind-the-scenes access to East Mississippi Community College’s preparation for the 2016 season and its head coach, Buddy Stephens.
Weeks ago season two of Last Chance U was released on the streaming service. While the season and players changed, the constants that remained were Stephens, most of his coaching staff, and academic advisor Brittany Wagner. The second season begins with Coach Stephens reflecting on his portrayal in the first season of the show, ashamed of his cussing and behaviour. A memorable moment occurs in the final episode of season one, when Stephens lambastes his team after it was disqualified for brawling with Mississippi Delta, calling his players thugs and dumb for blowing the opportunity to play for a national championship. Upon further review the coach learned what the viewers already knew the players came to their comrades’ defense after their opponents ganged up on one of them. Stephens later issued an apology to the team.
For most of the second season Stephens tries to put on a new face, attempting to be a better person than the season before. While he consciously tries to change his actions and behaviour, from all appearances he takes a step closer to being one of the biggest villains in the sport. Already despised in the junior college ranks for his penchant for running up the score against opponents, Stephens continues to alienate those around him, which in season two includes his coaching colleagues. Some examples include him berating offensive coordinator Marcus Wood in front of the team and fans on a game day, and undermining defensive line coach Davern Williams’ punishment of problem child Kam Carter by siding with the player. He’s also been known to kick at the camera crew, turn off the mics to have conversations, and try to manipulate his portrayal on the show.
But Buddy Stephens is a polarizing figure. Whether you like it or not, winning is a priority. For some people, it is the only thing that matters when it comes to any program or franchise. Despite the outcries, Stephens took his team to an undefeated record (that first game was a farce) and won the state title. The Lions came up short of their goal of playing in the national championship, yet they won every other game with a full squad. While the administration surely would like to see EMCC painted in the best possible light, they know that winning games will surely get them into the spotlight, regardless of what some people outside of the Scooba, Mississippi campus want to believe.
Coaches like Buddy Stephens should not represent the sport. I hope that Stephens is able to work through his demons, to learn from what he sees from the documentary and become a better person. Can he be the same type of coach if he changes his personality? Will he overcompensate based on public perception of him from season two? We will not know for sure, since the series creators have stated that the show will not focus on EMCC for the third season. According to rumours, it will instead head over to a community college in Kansas.
The break-up between the show and EMCC may be for the best, given how volatile the situation became. What is best for the football team and its coach is a respite from the constant scrutiny that the Netflix series created. Although viewers and fans can continue tracking EMCC’s progress from a distance, some time apart from the constant limelight will hopefully help mend the distrust in Scooba.