Great Sports Writing: The Shame Of College Sports

The court of public opinion is starting to point further and further towards the idea of blowing up the NCAA and its flawed system.  Almost all of the major sports writers are on board now and anyone left believing that college athletes shouldn’t be paid should have their sports fandom revoked immediately.  There have been tons of minor shots delivered over the years, most notably form the guys at Yahoo! Sports, but now comes the knockout punch with this brilliant piece in this week’s issue of The Atlantic.  It’s quite a read, but if you ever wanted to get your facts straight or finally have your opinion swayed on this issue, this is the work that will get you fully prepared to debate all your colleagues at work.  The best part about the whole thing is that the writer is a notable historian of the civil rights movement and has published multiple documents recounting that struggle.  He goes so far as to call the NCAA’s model racist, which comes with a ton of credibility, given his career.  From The Atlantic:

But after an inquiry that took me into locker rooms and ivory towers across the country, I have come to believe that sentiment blinds us to what’s before our eyes. Big-time college sports are fully commercialized. Billions of dollars flow through them each year. The NCAA makes money, and enables universities and corporations to make money, from the unpaid labor of young athletes.

Slavery analogies should be used carefully. College athletes are not slaves. Yet to survey the scene—corporations and universities enriching themselves on the backs of uncompensated young men, whose status as “student-athletes” deprives them of the right to due process guaranteed by the Constitution—is to catch an unmistakable whiff of the plantation. Perhaps a more apt metaphor is colonialism: college sports, as overseen by the NCAA, is a system imposed by well-meaning paternalists and rationalized with hoary sentiments about caring for the well-being of the colonized. But it is, nonetheless, unjust. The NCAA, in its zealous defense of bogus principles, sometimes destroys the dreams of innocent young athletes.

The NCAA today is in many ways a classic cartel. Efforts to reform it—most notably by the three Knight Commissions over the course of 20 years—have, while making changes around the edges, been largely fruitless. The time has come for a major overhaul. And whether the powers that be like it or not, big changes are coming. Threats loom on multiple fronts: in Congress, the courts, breakaway athletic conferences, student rebellion, and public disgust. Swaddled in gauzy clichés, the NCAA presides over a vast, teetering glory.

Make this your weekend reading.  You can thank me later.

[The Atlantic]

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Good Morning Generation

Two quick thoughts to start the morning:

-The University of Texas, ESPN, and the Big 12 are teaming up to prove exactly what is wrong with college football this season.  In case you didn’t know yet, ESPN agreed to a mega-deal with UT to create a “Longhorn Network” that will exclusively show Texas sports teams.  The idea is completely ridiculous and this week at the Big 12 media days, other schools in the conference were not afraid to voice their reluctance.  Many coaches chose to snub the Longhorn Network reporters while some, like Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, actually were brave enough to speak out against it. 

No word on whether Big 12 commissioner Dan Bebe has suspended him yet. 

The notion of a school getting its own network is equal parts laughable and absurd.  Texas is going to spend a lot of time and money over the next couple of months trying to prove that this somehow doesn’t give them an edge over their fellow NCAA schools and that this isn’t about money and exposure, and the sad thing is that they’re going to win that battle.  It’s all about the student athlete!  No way is UT interested in being able to brag to recruits that they’ll have their own nationally-broadcasted TV station!  Why would they want to do that?! 

The most hilarious aspect in all of this is that UT is single-handedly holding the Big 12 conference hostage and abusing its status as the best school in the conference.  They realize that the conference crumbles without their participation and they’re going to milk that status for all its worth in the coming years.  It’s sickening for the other schools involved and it’s exactly why Nebraska and Colorado bailed this past offseason while Oklahoma and A&M are likely to leave for the SEC as soon as next year.  But conference commissioner Dan Bebe could care less!  Suck it up and take the money you lesser schools who dare challenge the almighty UT!  This is better for all of us! We promise! 

That a conference commissioner could get paid millions of dollars to represent ten member schools while clearly favoring only the interests of one school is exactly what’s wrong with the NCAA model.  This was never about the athletes, or the schools, or the fans.  This system exists to make millionaires out of idiots like Bebe.

-MLB again finds itself in a controversy this morning, completely erasing any goodwill it had hoped to build up during the NFL lockout this summer.  If you hadn’t heard yet, last night the home plate umpire in an epic 19-inning Pirates/Braves game made a historic “I want this game to end right now, I am in charge, I could care less about honesty and fairness” call that cost the Pirates the game and will be the talk of baseball in the coming weeks.  At a time when we should be debating trades and penant races, the discussion in baseball again shifts to calls for instant replay and whether we actually need umpires (hint: we don’t).

I wrote on this very site last week that I’m actually going to start rooting for more screw ups from the Bud Selig’s of the sports world, so I’m not all that worked up about this.  It’s high comedy if you ask me.  Most especially when later today Bud inevitably comes out and issues a statement that says something to the effect of, “durr MLB takes this very seriously, durrr, but there’s nothing we can do about it durrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.” 

It sucks though if your a Pirates fan because the loss dropped them from first to third in the ultra-tight NL Central race and by the end of the year could prove to be the difference between making the playoffs and going home.  I relate to that frustration as a fan.

You don’t want to sit here and make this an issue about the umpires union and baseball not having enough influence, but at some point you’d hope the umpires could see that their extreme defiance and complete abuse of power could ultimately lead to the loss of their existence in the sport.  Jim Joyce’s call on the perfect game last year immediately comes to mind this morning, but at least he was willing to publicly admit he blew it right after the game.  This turd from last night went so far as to say he still thought he made the right call and was only willing to concede that he “may” have made the wrong call.  Just maybe.

I love me some baseball, but this is the kind of petty crap that drives away the casual fan.  The NFL may be a soulless, money-making juggernaut, but another reason it is the king of American sports is that it doesn’t let the little things like stubborn pride and the human element get in the way of the game.

At some point, you’d hope Selig would realize the error in his ways.

Generation Y, where the NFL should pay-per-view the upcoming meeting between Plaxico Burress and Tom Coughlin.

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Orange Bowl Official Who Accepted A Free Cruise As A Gift Is Among Those BCS Officials Investigating Fiesta Bowl Infractions

Jesus this day gets better and better.  Dan Wetzel for Yahoo! Sports has been on the forefront of taking down the BCS’s hypocrisies for years, even publishing a book about it all this past season.  To add to the NCAA’s embarrassment this morning, Wetzel dropped this bomb on them too!  There are big things going on, so glad Wetzel was able to join in on the party with another strategically aimed dagger to the NCAA’s heart.  From Yahoo! Sports:

The Bowl Championship Series is so troubled by the graft exposed in Tuesday’s Fiesta Bowl corruption report that it appointed a special “task force.” Among the members is an athletics director who accepted a free Caribbean cruise from the Orange Bowl just last summer.

Yes, there’s nothing like having a guy – in this case, Southern Mississippi’s Richard Giannini – who takes lavish gifts from one bowl game to judge another bowl game for giving out lavish gifts.

The obvious news from Tuesday’s 276-page Fiesta Bowl report is that longtime CEO John Junker was fired and is in major legal trouble, in part because of the eye-popping way his bowl game was run – $1,200 strip-joint bills tend to generate news interest. The real issue is that the BCS is doing what the Fiesta Bowl originally tried to do: conduct a shallow investigation and hope the party is allowed to rage on.

As a person who follows sports news religiously, I can freely attest that I have never witnessed anything like has happened today.  The NCAA is getting completely hammered from all angles and it’s like the journalism community today decided to fight back against the collective NCAA bully by bodyslamming them the way that fat kid did a couple weeks ago in the now famous video. 

Anxious to see where this goes.

[Yahoo! Sports]

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In Defense Of Jay Cutler

By Matt Corder

I may be the only Broncos fan alive who still has Cutler’s back.  It’s weird, it’s bizarre, and it makes no sense whatsoever.  I know this.  But after the backlash the Bears QB took yesterday from fellow players around the league, I felt compelled to take the time and write a short piece explaining why it’s absolute BS that anyone is questioning his toughness this AM.

I read an outstanding piece today from the latest issue of The New Yorker which wonders aloud whether pro football has a future in America.  Everyone is aware of the push in football for the reduction of concussions and more importantly the prevention of the head-related injuries and I think we can all agree that this is a good thing.  Most people aren’t passionate about it, but it’s one of those things where we all nod our heads in agreement.  The piece notes how football has been transformed in the modern game because, “With increased professionalization, in the middle decades of the last century, came specialization within the sport, and the demise of players who covered both offense and defense. And with specialization came increased speed and intensity, owing, in part, to reduced fatigue among the players, as well as skill sets and body types suited to particular facets of the game.”  In essence, the point the author is making is that the speed and violence of the game has increased over time because players have carved out specialized roles based on their body type and are more prone to creating such violence because they have more endurance and strength.

Why then, are these same people who agree that preventing brain injuries is a good thing, bashing Cutler for not finishing the game with one leg that was completely worthless?

Did you see the Packers defense yesterday?  It was remarkable how quickly they were getting to the quarterback.  Dom Capers unit is perhaps the best defense in football right now not named the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Do you think that they were going to turn off the heat all of a sudden because Cutler’s knee was hanging on by a thread?  Was Clay Matthews going to run a little bit slower when he was blitzing the Bears QB with the intention of ripping his face off? 

No effin’ way!

The hypocrisy within football is astounding and this latest incarnation with Cutler shows why you have to draw the line on which side you are on.  You can’t have it both ways.  Either you want the players to be protected or you don’t.  The notion that Cutler should have gone out there yesterday and made himself susceptible to the constant lashings of the Green Bay defense is absolutely absurd.  The violence and risk of injury on the football field is simply too high and losing your greatest weapon to avoiding that ferocity (see: ability to run, much less walk) is reason enough not to play.

The funniest (and most ironic) aspect in all of this is that the people with the harshest criticism of Cutler were current and former players, all of whom are going to be petitioning the NFL one day to pay for the long-term repercussions of playing the game of football.  They complain all year how an 18-game regular season isn’t fair and asks too much of their bodies, and yet when one of their fellow players sits out the last two quarters of his 18th game this year, he is undeniably a pussy.  Tell me how that makes sense?  Perhaps, if only once, they had had the common sense of Cutler, their own careers and hmm I don’t know, lives, could have been extended.

The ignorance and hypocrisy is reaching the point of being ridiculous.  I’m not arguing for one side or the other, but the time has come.  Make a decision on which side you’re on.

Either embrace the violence 100% or get off Cutler’s back.

Dude made the right decision.

[The New Yorker]

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Buzz Bissinger Is Now A Sports Columnist For The Daily Beast

Always good to have one of the all-time greats writing regularly writing again.  In his first column at his new website, the Friday Night Lights author addresses Cam Newton and his father.  From the Daily Beast:

So Cecil wanted a piece of the action before his son’s college career ended, and the family deserved a piece of action: Call it an annuity, call it a financial derivative, call it a mortgage-backed security, but don’t buy into the treacle from the NCAA or lazy sportswriters that Cecil Newton somehow impugned the integrity of a game that hasn’t had any integrity since Robert Maynard Hutchins got rid of football at the University of Chicago in 1939, even though the school was in the Big Ten and Jay Berwanger had won the first Heisman Trophy four years earlier.

It’s actually unfair to call Cam Newton a whore. Let’s more accurately call him a slave to a system that is outrageous from any financial, or for that matter, moral perspective. Dozens upon dozens of major colleges, in their obscene obsession over college football and basketball even though it does not add a single thing to the academic experience—except members of the student body shellacking their torsos in school colors—take sickening advantage of their high-profile stars. They fill stadiums and arenas. Jerseys are sold with their names emblazoned on the back, worn by over-painted female fans with breasts that should know better. And yet the players don’t get a cut, at least as far as we know, which we don’t but for the rare example of isolated cases that go public.

The NCAA needs to get off its pedestal of false sanctimony that has become wearisome. Equally sanctimonious sportswriters, scarring the land with their predictable bellows of outrage, should just zip it as well—unless they care more about the pre-game spread in the press dining room and the secret fantasy of a big-time coach calling them by their first name.

This article has everything you’ve come to expect from a good Bissinger column: venom, sarcasm, wit, and dark humor.  We’ll keep you updated as more of his pieces come in.  We agree with him too by the way.  These guys deserve to get paid!

[The Daily Beast]

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List of 2010-2011 Bowl Game Gifts To Players

*UPDATE* – For the 2011-2012 bowl games list, click here.

From Sox and Dawgs:

New Mexico Bowl (BYU vs. UTEP)
Gift Suite, Oakley Fuel Cell Sunglasses, Oakley beanie, New Era cap, Oakley Panel backpack, pen with box, Christmas ornament

uDrove Humanitarian (Northern Illinois vs Fresno State)
Sony gift suite, New Era Skull cap, waterproof breathable parka, winter gloves, hand warmers, Ogio Fugitive backpack, Big Game souvenier football

R+L Carriers New Orleans (Ohio vs Troy)
Apple iPod Touch, Balfour ring

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg (Louisville vs. Southern Mississippi)
Microsoft XBOX 360 4GB, Oakley Fuel Cell sunglasses, Oakley Panel backpack, Mini-helmet

MAACO Las Vegas (Utah vs. Boise State)
Gift Suite

S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia (San Diego State vs. Navy)
Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, hooded sweatshirt, cap

Sheraton Hawaii (Hawaii vs. Tulsa)
Kicker EB141 earbuds, Oakley Fuel Cell sunglasses, Pro Athletics custom shorts, commemorative t-shirt, golf shirt, visor, Oakley Surf backpack, beach towels, calendar

Little Caesars (Florida International vs Toledo)
Gift suite, Timely Watch Co., leather duffle bag, commemorative football

AdvoCare V100 Independence (Georgia Tech vs. Air Force)
Gift suite, Timely Watch Co., New Era hat, souvenir hat,

Champs Sports (West Virginia vs North Carolina State)
$420 shopping free at local Best Buy*, Timely Watch Co.

Insight Bowl (Missouri vs Iowa)
Sony Gift Suite, Tourneau watch, cap, Ogio Cooper backpack

Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman (Maryland vs. East Carolina)
Sony Dash, Altec Lansing inMotion portable speaker, Beanie, cap, duffel bag, tailgate blanket

Texas Bowl (Illinois vs Baylor)
Apple iPod Touch, Fossil watch, t-shirt, backpack, belt buckle

Valero Alamo (Arizona vs Oklahoma State)
Microsoft XBOX 360 with Kinect, $20 GameStop gift card, Kicker 541 headphones, Apple iPod Shuffle

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces (Army vs. SMU)
Sony Gift Suite, Timely Watch Co., Ogio All Terrain duffel bag, commemorative football

New Era Pinstripe (Kansas St. vs. Syracuse)
would not disclose1

Franklin American Mortgage Music City (North Carolina vs Tennessee)
Skullcandy headphones, Apple iPod Shuffle, iTunes gift card, Fossil watch, Majestic fleece, Port & Co. long sleeve t-shirt, Ogio Newt backpack

Bridgepoint Education Holiday (Washington vs Nebraska)
Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, hooded sweatshirt, cap

Meineke Car Care (Clemson vs South Florida)
would not disclose2

Hyundai Sun (Miami (FL) vs Notre Dame)
Gift Suite, Timely Watch Co., Majestic fleece pullover, Top of the World Cap, Ogio Politan backpack, Helen of Troy hair dryer, souvenir coin

AutoZone Liberty (UCF vs. Georgia)
Apple iPod Nano 6th generation 8 GB, Fossil watch, Nike training shoes, Nike sport sandals, Nike sunglasses, Nike Air Jordan backpack, commemorative football

Chick-fil-A (Florida State vs South Carolina)
$250 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Russell Athletic knit cap, Russell Athletic travel bag, commemorative football, Chick-fil-A gift card

TicketCity (Northwestern vs Texas Tech)
Gift suite, Timely Watch Co.

Outback (Florida vs Penn State)
$150 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, cap, Jostens ring, $25 Outback Steakhouse gift certificate

Capital One (Alabama vs Michigan State)
$420 shopping spree at local Best Buy*, Timely Watch Co.

Gator Bowl (Mississippi State vs Michigan)
Fossil watch, Oakley sunglasses, Leather duffle bag, Jostens ring, commemorative football

Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO (Wisconsin vs TCU)
Gift suite, Fossil watch, Oakley cap, Oakley Bugeye backpack

Tostitos Fiesta (Oklahoma vs UConn)
Gift suite, Fossil watch, cap, Ogio Cooper backpack

Discover Orange (Stanford vs Virginia Tech)
Gift suite, Tourneau watch, New Era cap

Allstate Sugar (Ohio State vs Arkansas)
Sleek Audio custom earphones, gift suite, Reactor Meltdown watch, New Era cap

GoDaddy.com (Middle Tennessee vs Miami (OH))
Nikon S70 touchscreen camera package,  Timely Watch Co., leather luggage bag, commemorative football

AT&T Cotton (Texas A&M vs. LSU)
would not disclose3

BBVA Compass Bowl (Pittsburgh vs Kentucky)
Oakley Blade II watch, Oakley Fuel Cell sunglasses, Oakley Surf backpack, Big Game souvenir football

Kraft Fight Hunger (Boston College vs. Nevada)
Sony noise-canceling headphones, Fossil watch, cap, Ogio backpack, $100 Levi’s gift certificate

Tostitos BCS National Championship Game (Auburn vs Oregon)
Gift Suite, Fossil watch, cap, Ogio Cooper backpack

* To be spent during team’s official store visit. Balance not used that day will be forfeited
1
– New bowl game, no prior gift list
2 – gift list last year included a choice of Bose gift packages or iPod Touch, speakers and a $20 gift card, Fossil Watch, Ogio duffel bag, commemorative Richard Petty Driving Experience photo
3– Gifts last year included a 32-inch Vizio LCD HDTV and a watch
Gift suites are set up as private events in which game participants and often bowl VIPs, are given an order form and allowed to select a gift or gifts up to a value predetermined by each specific bowl, not to exceed the NCAA limit of  $500 per person

[Sox and Dawgs]

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