Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Miami Mess

When I first heard about the Yahoo! Sports report that a Miami booster provided cash, cars, jewelry, use of mansions and a yacht, prostitutes, bounties for taking out the opposition, and an abortion for Miami football players, I had three immediate thoughts: 1) Holy balls, Miami knows how to party, 2) This wouldn’t even be that big of a deal if the NCAA weren’t an unprecedented and corrupt cockblock that gets away with a  multibillion dollar scam year after year, and 3) Having said that, the rules are the rules and – if the allegations are true – I’m not sure there has ever been such a flagrant breaking of NCAA rules in the history of both the NCAA and their explicit rules against soliciting prostitution and boosters paying for abortions.

Let’s start with what’s really important – the partying.  Now, thanks to depictions of Miami in all sorts of TV shows and movies (and at least one music video), I’ve always thought that I had a relatively good idea of just how much the city likes to party.  I mean, anyone who has seen Will Smith rocking a wifebeater while hollering at hoochies, Tony Montana burying his face in a heaping mound of blow, Ace Ventura talking out of his butthole, Horatio Caine smoothly putting on his sunglasses after pausing midsentence, and Dexter Morgan saran wrapping criminals to a table and driving a knife through their chest before dismembering their bodies, putting the remains in a bunch of garbage bags, and dumping the bags in the Atlantic Ocean should fully understand that the city of Miami is all about having a good time.  But even with all of these depictions of Miami being a zoo fully packed with party animals, I was still pretty surprised when the Yahoo! report came out and revealed that the average Miami football player apparently breaks the BYU Honor Code 14 times before they even eat breakfast.

What made the report so surprising to me is that even though the fact that this all took place in Miami shouldn’t make it all that shocking, we’re still talking about 18-22 year old kids here.  Sure it seems like “18-22 year old kids” and “partying” are synonymous, but if you really think back on your days in college, I’m guessing “partying” just meant drinking a bunch of cheap beer, listening to music that was turned up way too loudly only because whoever was hosting the party wanted to show off their sound system, crossing your fingers that the girls you were hitting on were too drunk to notice how ugly you were, and drawing penises on the foreheads of your friends who passed out before you did.  Every now and then maybe there were people passing around a joint or two, but for the most part that is what a typical college party entails. 

Nowhere in that description did I mention yachts, mansions, cash, jewelry, or – most importantly – prostitutes, which is why the Miami allegations are shockingly awesome to me.  According to US census data taken in 2010, less than 1% of American citizens have ever partied on a yacht or with prostitutes, so for a bunch of Miami football players to allegedly have done both before they were even old enough to legally rent a car  is truly a remarkable thing and is something I won’t hesitate to admit makes me jealous (hell, I’m sure a lot of them went to these parties before they were even old enough to legally drink).  Then again, I guess all of this shouldn’t have been much of a surprise considering the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about Miami emphasized how wild the Hurricanes were back in the 80s and 90s, and the 7th Floor Crew song in 2004 (very NSFW language) revealed that dorm room gangbangs are apparently as much of a current Miami football tradition as pissing and moaning about a pass interference call from almost a decade ago.

Anyway, now that we got the important and fun part out of the way, let’s discuss what is rapidly becoming the bane of my existence – the NCAA’s steadfast refusal to let athletes profit from their own abilities even though those same athletes’ abilities are the reason the NCAA and the schools the athletes represent rake in billions every year.  As a guy who had to wear the NCAA handcuffs for four straight years (although, let’s be honest, since I was a walk-on my handcuffs weren’t that tight) and couldn’t even accept a free sandwich if I was offered one, I think it’s nothing short of ridiculous that the NCAA continues to cockblock their athletes. 

As far as I’m concerned, the Miami football players getting cash, jewelry, cars, access to yachts, etc. shouldn’t even be an issue, just like the Ohio State football scandal should have never been an issue, because there’s no logical argument as to why the athletes shouldn’t be entitled to all those things (the OSU scandal especially shouldn’t have been a big deal since I’m of the opinion that the players technically earned the things they sold).  Now, the prostitutes and the bounties that were allegedly paid to Miami players to take out opposing players are obviously a big deal, but I’m focusing on the free cash and gifts right now.  As shady and corrupt as college sports may seem, at the end of the day the superstar athletes that generate millions for their schools have every right to accept all the cash and gifts they want because they aren’t anywhere close to being as fully compensated as they deserve to be.  That’s right, I said it – it’s criminally unfair that college athletes (read: football and men’s basketball players) aren’t paid.

The prevalent argument against paying players is that the players are already getting paid in the form of a free education and a monthly stipend, but I have two issues with this argument. First, from experience I can tell you that the stipend is basically just enough money to survive on and typically isn’t a large enough sum of money to result in very much discretionary income for the players, so really it isn’t even worth mentioning (as I’m sure you all remember me infamously discussing in a certain earlier blog post). In all honesty, when you think about all the hours the players put into their respective sports, the stipend is probably just a little bit higher than minimum wage. Obviously there are many people in America who are living off of minimum wage (or in this economy, no income at all), but these people also aren’t bringing in millions upon millions of dollars for their schools and conferences like the star athletes are, so it’s not exactly fair to just say “if other people can make it work, college athletes should be able to also.”

Secondly, while you and I might place a high value on a college education, many superstar athletes are in college solely because they want to prepare for the pros, so a free education doesn’t really mean much to them. I mean, if you really think about it, the fundamental purpose of college is to gather all the knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce in your desired field. Keeping that in mind, for a lot of these guys the sport they play is essentially their major and taking classes and graduating is really just their form of an extracurricular activity.  Much like how you wanted to be an accountant so you went to college and majored in accounting, these guys want to be NFL linebackers so they go to college to major in breaking spines and ripping the heads off of timid receivers coming across the middle.

This notion is obviously a stereotype and doesn’t apply to everyone who is a shoo-in to make it to the NBA or NFL, but for the most part the All-American college athletes really only care about their education to a certain extent.  At the end of the day, their primary focus is making it to the big leagues, so while a free education would mean a great deal to people like you and me, for the superstar athletes who are likely going to leave college early anyway, a scholarship is the equivalent of being a paraplegic and being given a brand new motorcycle.

People who are against paying college athletes and have a hard-on for protecting the concept of amateurism also often cite the fact that NCAA athletes know what they’re getting into because they sign all sorts of forms that explain how the system works, so they have no right to complain about anything.  But having gone through this form-signing process four times, I can assure you that it’s not nearly as simple as signing a contract with, say, a cable or gas company might be.

When I was at OSU, we would have compliance meetings at the start of every academic year where we would be given a stack of papers to sign.  I specifically remember a handful of times when our compliance person would explain what the form we were about to sign meant and I would consequently think, “This is BS. I don’t want to sign this.”  On one occasion, I actually said this out loud to the compliance person and his response was, “Well, then you’ll be ineligible.”  So really, my hands were tied because my choices were to either sign the forms or essentially quit the team and miss out on the plethora of poon that comes with being an Ohio State athlete.  Negotiating was not an option so I had no choice but to sign the forms as they were.

Now, I wasn’t really all that worked up and was mostly just trying to be a pain in the ass with the compliance people to screw with them a little bit because I knew that giving Ohio State and the NCAA the right to use my image and whatnot wasn’t really that big of a deal since, well, frankly I knew that they would never actually use my image to promote anything.  But at the same time I couldn’t help but think how pissed I’d be if I were someone who was a big time Ohio State athlete like, say, Terrelle Pryor.  Pryor was essentially forced to sign the same forms I had to, only when he was signing them, he was signing away thousands if not millions of dollars in potential earnings. 

So for someone like him, the choices are either to not play or to let the school and NCAA profit boatloads of money off him while he gets essentially nothing in return.  In other words, for all intents and purposes, all college athletes are pretty much forced to sign these papers, especially since the fact that the NBA and NFL both require draft entrants to be a certain age leaves these guys with no viable alternative to playing in the NCAA (football in particular since high school kids can at least play professional basketball overseas instead of going to college while foreign football leagues versus big time college football is as laughable of a comparison as Qdoba versus Chipotle).  So the “they have no right to complain because they know what they’re getting into” argument holds no water from my perspective.

I guess we could argue about whether or not college athletes should be paid until we’re blue in the face, but in the end it won’t really mean much because the NCAA isn’t going to change their ways anytime soon. The fact of the matter is that the only real way to get the rules changed seems to be for the players to essentially just go on strike and cause a lockout. But this will never happen because the players simply aren’t around long enough to make it happen.

It can be assumed that the upperclassmen and the superstar freshmen and sophomores are the ones who are missing out on the most money (simply from the fact that they’re the ones who put butts in the seats at the games and would likely be the ones getting endorsements and whatnot), but by the time they realize that they’re getting screwed and they actually get upset enough to take action to stop the exploitation, they are already gone to the pros or have graduated and moved on to more important things in their lives. After those guys leave, the carousel continues to spin as a new crop of college athletes comes in and goes through the same cycle of sitting on the bench for a couple of years, finally playing toward the tail end of their careers, and not realizing that they’re getting exploited until it’s too late and they’ve got other things to worry about (and most importantly no longer have any motivation to see that college athletes are justly compensated).

Because the athletes can never get enough traction to seriously challenge the NCAA, nothing gets changed and the exploitation continues. The NCAA knows that they will always have this advantage over the players, which is why I’m fairly certain they all sit in their offices and just cackle, rub their hands together with malevolent glee, and twirl their mustaches all day. I can’t decide if I think everyone involved with such a corrupt organization should be thrown in prison for eternity or if they should be congratulated and given some sort of award for successfully pulling off a multibillion dollar scam on unsuspecting kids year after year (the real irony here is that the NCAA – an organization that profits from screwing people out of money – is most likely going to punish the Miami kids for hanging out with a guy who screwed people out of money).

But I digress.  The bottom line is that, if the allegations are true (it’s more fun to just assume they are, isn’t it?), the Miami players knew exactly what they were doing and knew that what they were doing was a blatant violation of NCAA rules, so it’s impossible to feel all that bad for them (especially if the stuff about the hookers and bounties is true – that really is indefensible).  Sure the rules are archaic and unjust, but ultimately they’re the rules and until they change, it’s probably best to just abide by them and not choose to break them in the most ridiculous and flagrant ways imaginable.  In the meantime, until the rules change, all us fans can really do is just sit back and hope that someday we can all look back on this era of college sports like we now look back on Prohibition (and will most likely look back on the illegality of marijuana and the concept of age of consent) and wonder, “What the hell were the people in charge thinking?”

The world is a better place when yacht parties featuring hookers are plentiful and that is a fact.  The sooner the NCAA realizes this, the better off we’ll all be.


It’s inevitable that at least one of you will think my hatred for the NCAA stems from the fact that I was forced to donate all the money from my shirt sales to charity when I was playing at Ohio State, so I thought I’d address that real quick.  First of all, let me say that the money went to a remarkable charity and was no doubt put to great use and I couldn’t be happier to have been somewhat responsible for that (I know it’s cliché to say that and you probably don’t believe me, but screw it – it’s the God honest truth).  At the same time, though, of course the selfish side of me would have loved to have had that $50,000 to spend on whatever I wanted.  You’re lying to yourself if you think for one second that some part of you wouldn’t feel the same way.  Who in their right mind wouldn’t want $50,ooo just handed to them while they were in college?

But the reason I wasn’t all that upset that I couldn’t get that money and the reason I’m not necessarily pissed at the NCAA for that is because I knew that I wasn’t being exploited since I was a walk-on benchwarmer.  It’s not like Ohio State or the NCAA was making tons of money off of me, so I really didn’t have that big of a problem with me not being able to make money off of me either (I still thought it was dumb, but I wouldn’t say I was ever “pissed” about it). 

No, my hatred for the NCAA comes from the fact that they use their athletes to gain a profit (which is completely understandable and fine) but won’t allow the athletes to use themselves to gain a profit (which is complete horseshit).  It sucks that I couldn’t make money from selling my shirts, sure, but the idea that Jared Sullinger won’t be paid a single dime for singlehandedly selling a bunch of tickets and jerseys this upcoming season is pretty disgusting to me.  I know this kind of thing goes on with corporations all over the world, but since I played college basketball and was around the NCAA’s exploitation on a daily basis, this particular instance is the one that I really get fired up over.  Pair my anger with the breaking story about Miami and the fact that I really don’t have anything better to do with my time and it explains my motivation behind this blog post.


This is your last reminder that I’m writing a mailbag post on Friday, so don’t be a doucher and send me an email.

Also, we’ve got a few more additions to my list of things that make people lame if they aren’t good but complete badass if they are good.  Here are a few more of my favorites that the Trillion Man March sent in:

Drinking Beer

From Laine:

“Shotgunning a beer – if you've never done it before or if you're bad at it, it can squirt all over you (that's what she said) and make you soggy and smell like beer all night. If you're a pro, you take it down in one gulp and game over (again, that's what she said.)”

From Evan:

How is drinking in college not the gold standard for novices sucking and experts being amazing? Everyone wants to be like Frank the Tank and hammer that beer bong all night at the party. Depending on the size of your wood, you may or may not want to go streaking through the quad, but that's only a problem for those who can survive a night long of heavy chugging first anyway. But the kid who just got to the party, shotgunned 2 cold ones, and is already passed out puking in the bathroom? He's the biggest loser douche at the party and is going to wake up to shame and a lot of Sharpie dicks drawn all over his body.

A related subject, beer pong. The guy at the party who always lets his partner shoot first because he never misses and will hit any cup is pretty awesome and can definitely keep that hot streak going all night right into some hot mama's bed. But the guy who can't hit a cup and then is running around the house naked showing off his tiny schlong because his team got shut out? Not so cool to be him.”

Criminals (specifically thieves)

From Trevor:

“In real life, its fairly common to hear about people who try to rob a convenience store and end up getting held at gunpoint by the guy at the counter while the cops come. This is lame, even I could do better than that. On the other hand, real (ok, mostly fictional) hard core criminals are incredibly badass. Kaiser Soze? His nickname is the devil, pretty hardcore. Then there are all the other bankrobbing movies, The Oceans (11 through 13) Inside Job, etc. Then in real life you used to have Jesse James and all the wild west types. There just aren't cool robberies anymore really, its almost a pity.”

I also thought about this one when I heard about the Miami football story and Nevin Shapiro’s Ponzi scheme and couldn’t help but think, “Even though that guy screwed a bunch of people out of a ton of money and should no doubt be locked up for a very long time, a small part of me is kind of impressed.”  I feel the same way about guys like Pablo Escobar, D.B. Cooper, Al Capone, etc.

Cops

Also from Trevor:

“Now on the other side of the spectrum, we have cops. There's the stereotypical cop, drinking coffee and eating donuts, kinda pathetic. Then you have supercops, like in the movies. I assume that the CIA and FBI are pretty intense in real life too, but I don't really know what they actually do.”


Proud to Be An American But Even Prouder To Be A Buckeye,

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder