Friday, March 27, 2009

Sportsology on Corruption

The Yahoo! Sports article about Jim Calhoun’s cheating scandal is getting a lot of publicity. I came across a Jason Whitlock article which talked about the true lack of interest on the NCAA’s part when it comes to cleaning up recruiting.

When I started reading the comments, with people accusing Yahoo! of yellow journalism and saying these kids aren’t getting ripped off because they’re getting a free education, etc., it reminded me of this Joe Posnanski (fast becoming my favorite sportswriter) blog post. In it, he talks about the role of sports journalist. Is it to entertain, enlighten or do a little bit of both?

Personally, I looked at sports journalism as something in between the two fields, but only because they cover entertainers for a living. I love to read the investigative pieces, especially about the increasingly shady recruiting practices, but apparently people don’t care.

Or maybe people’s perspectives are backwards. For starters, its really unfair and naïve to view the degree that the big-time college athlete receives as being on par with the degree you and I may receive, especially in modern terms. Most of these kids aren’t smart enough to get into these schools (and like Nate Miles, a lot of them probably wouldn’t even graduate from high school without their athletic prowess), but we expect them to succeed in the classroom anyway? On top of a demanding athletic schedule, which is the equivalent of a full time job?

Plus, when you look at the value of a college degree, versus the amount of dollars generated, it’s not an even trade off. Look at it like this:

Say you work at a huge company with hundreds of thousands of employees that makes billions of dollars a year. At this company, everyone in upper management might be millionaires, but people actually creating the product barely make 30K (kind of like most companies today anyway). Keep in mind that on your current work experience will only bring you success in a few, focused industries.

At this point, you might say “I’m getting screwed.” But you stay at the company anyway, because after three or four years you might be able to move on to another company making even more money than your current supervisors.

But out of your hundred thousand dollar company, only a few hundred will ever get that million dollar gig, and most of those who get the job will be fired after a year or two. This is the college athlete’s situation in a nutshell.

I guess this is like the rest of us, minus the promise of being a millionaire. Far from slaves, when these kids throw away their education at middle or high school levels, for all intensive purposes at least, these “student athletes” are banking on million dollar careers to supplement their lack of earning ability doing anything outside of sports. Most of these kids are in this predicament only because of the promise of millions.

On top of that, they’re spurned on by people who are only in their lives to make money off their ability to shoot a jumpshot. This is where things get different for the student athlete than you and I. When you’re punching the clock at your 50k/year gig, you probably don’t have dozens of people around fighting over the few hundred bucks you have left over each check after paying bills and student loans.

Another way to look at the corruption in college hoops is to look at the corruption in the nation. Do you really think Jim Calhoun didn’t know his assistants were in communication with the kid Miles, his family and that agent/advisor? If so, you’re pretty naïve.

When it comes to a recruit of that caliber, Calhoun was probably peppering his coaches with questions about Miles every day. The likelihood of his coaches being able to report on what they were doing with Miles, without mentioning the things that are infractions, is once again highly unlikely. I can go on and on about the scumbag Calhoun, but that’s not the point.

The point is when money is involved; you can’t expect someone to do the right thing or the care about the human condition. In all industries, especially in 2009 America, cash is king. It even happens with the kids who pay for their own education. Universities don’t care about their education, they want the money. That’s why they let these money-making kids enter their school even though they don’t stack up academically. Sometimes, these kids even have criminal records, making them dangerous for other students to be around.

The coaches, agents, runners and “advisors” are no different from the people who ruined Wall St. and AIG. Everyone else be damned, they want to be paid. We not only need to reform Wall St. and college sports, I think it’s time for nationwide reform. We can’t be stupid anymore and expect people to do the right thing when there’s millions of dollars on the line. Either that or we can just say screw it, ditch the idea of a republic or democracy and become a nation of “everyman for himself.”

Going back to my point about journalism, with the amount of money and people involved, it's hard (for me at least) to look at sports as just entertainment. It's a business that is not very similar to the games we grew to love as kids. This is why I'm passionate as ever about investigative sports journalism and why it's heartbreaking for me to read people's indifferent comments.

Or maybe it's time for me to change the way I look at things.

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