Corruption or Business-As-Usual?

“I haven’t the slightest idea what you are talking about.”

Some mornings are filled with the kinds of “sports” news that are equivalently depressing, unsurprising, and deflating to the passions of why so many of us bonded our hearts away to their various attractions on the sandlots of childhood. Today, Wednesday, October 21, 2015, is one of those days for me here at The Pecan Park Eagle.

It started with Page One in the Houston Chronicle and the story of the debate Texas A&M last night between Oliver Luck, a Vice-President of the NCAA for Regulatory Affairs and Jay Silas, an ESPN basketball analyst who favors competitive pay for college athletes that would allow university based athletes to be paid as much as their coaches. Luck spoke for the position that free market pay that converted college athletes into wealthy minors that mirrored the NFL would totally destroy the possibility that most student athletes will remember that they are in college to get an education and earn a degree. Luck favors a more earth-bound stipend increase, one that does not distract from the stated purpose of why these young people on amateur athletic scholarship are in place – and that is, to get an education while they apply their talents in behalf of the school they supposedly represent. Both lawyers, it is reported that both men articulately argued their points for more than an hour in the Rudder Theatre on the Texas A&M campus.

The second non-caffeinated wake up call came from a report we then watched on the Today TV Show  which alleges that the University of Louisville basketball program extensively used prostitutes to recruit highly sought players from 2010 to 2014. Coach Rick Pitino’s public statement was that he knew nothing of this kind of thing going on – and that, if it were, the university was prepared to take responsibility for any wrongdoing. Who knows for sure what Pitino knew, and when he knew it. All I know was totally visceral. Pitino was about as convincing as Captain Renaud in “Casablanca” when he announced under political pressure from the Nazis that he was closing down Rick’s American Cafe because he was “shocked to find that gambling was going on.” At about the same time Renaud finishes his closure statement, a casino employee rushes over to hand him a payment check. “Your winnings, Captain!” – “Oh, thank you very much,” Renaud answers, as he quickly puts the money voucher in his pocket.

Corruption or Business-As-Usual? Is that the question – or the heart of the matter in both issues? Of course, one might argue that “corruption or business-as-usual” in sports is not a dichotomy – and that they both are truly one and the same – and that anything we human beings put together as an exercise, an institution, a religion, a club, a charity, a sport, a cause, or a you-name-it – on some level – inevitably finds its own level of corruption because of human egos – and they plays these parts of us write together – in play with each other – once things become political – or exercises in the pursuit of power and money.

All I know for sure is that none of this crap in the news today, no matter how real it is, has anything to do with my love for Astros baseball, UH major sports, and my lesser fondness for certain other athletic activities. Those bonds were born during my childhood sandlot days and the coming-of-age years I spent in undergraduate school. If I think about stories of greed and corruption in sports too much, it is never surprising to hear about the worst breaches of faith, but it does lessen my enjoyment of all the games. It does so because it brings home the reality that these great athletes are not here to play just to win for us fans, or the city, or the university but, understandably, to better their own lives and futures. Sometimes, that’s hard to do. And sometimes, it’s hard for both the individuals who play and coach the sports – and the institution or company that hires them, to stay honest in the way they do things.

And sometimes too, people make promises that they cannot honestly keep over time. It’s no excuse, but it is a fact of human nature.

Example. UH is now soaring again in college football with Tom Herman on board as the new head coach. The Cougars are 6-0-0 and ranked #21 in the country by AP under the former Ohio State Assistant Coach and Offensive Coordinator for the 2014 National Champions, but we also remember what happened to former head coaches Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin the last two times we were ranked and off to great success on the gridiron. – Briles left UH for more money at Baylor and he now has the Bears ranked #2 in the nation. Sumlin dropped UH for Texas A&M where he now has the Aggies ranked #17, if memory serves.

Herman is making more money now than any previous head coach at UH and he has vowed with great passion that he wants to be here to put the Cougars back on the map of big time college football as a winning team and, implicitly, through the time it takes for UH to again find membership in a top level conference.

Will that happen? Who knows? All we know at UH for sure is that some big hurting-for-wins, but money-heeled schools will have their runs at stealing Tom Herman away too – and that hunting season may already have begun with the mid-season retirement of Steve Spurrier as head coach at South Carolina.

As for the Louisville story, I’ll put my take in these words:

Hookers and bling,

They ain’t the real thing,

You ain’t got nothing,

If that’s what they bring.

____________________

eagle-0range

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2 Responses to “Corruption or Business-As-Usual?”

  1. Rick B. Says:

    Your post reminded me of a Dilbert cartoon from Sunday. A character says to Dilbert (I’m paraphrasing this a bit), “I suddenly realize Brad won’t do what he promised me he would do.” Dilbert tells him, “That’s called experience, and it’s what will eventually make you hate everyone.” The character asks, “How can I make it stop?” & Dilbert replies, “I hear good things about death.”

    That’s about right. Only then will we no longer have to be suspicious of others’ motives.

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