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The sports world gone mad — Part III


03/08/18



NCAA Basketball Investigation Kicks Up Some Real Dirt: If Congress is the first swamp needing to be drained, NCAA basketball is the second. We said when its latest scandal broke last fall that it was the tip of the iceberg. More of the iceberg was revealed last week by Yahoo! Sports, which reported FBI wiretaps allegedly have Arizona coach Sean Miller discussing a $100,000 payment to five-star recruit DeAndre Ayton. The report also said the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption implicates 20 programs, including North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, USC and Kansas, for providing improper to illegal recruiting benefits. Some are of the ticky-tacky free dinner variety, but others were for major cash payments and more. This has been going on since the beginning of time. There was Kentucky’s point-shaving scandal in the early ’50s and paying off Chris Mills in the late ’80s, rogue booster Sam Gilbert helping fuel the UCLA glory years, the Fab 5-era booster payoffs to Chris Webber and others at Michigan, Memphis’ alleged grade-fixing for Derek Rose and Coach Cal’s other fiasco with Marcus Camby and agents at UMass, academic cheating at supposedly pristine North Carolina and many, many other regular violations at places like Syracuse and UConn. So who thinks it ever will stop? 

Pitino Whining Again: The first major name to go down in the scandal was Rick Pitino. Anyone around him in Boston, as I was, knows he’s a major crybaby. My favorite was listening to him say after any Celtics loss, “We don’t make excuses,” and then he’d make about 14 of them — “we’re too young, we have no experience, we’re too small,” yada, yada, yada. Not to mention the famed Parish-McHale-Bird “walking through that door” incident. I always attributed it to two things: first, he’d been deified while Kentucky basketball coach by legions of misguided fans (and media); second, he was flummoxed because he’d never failed before and didn’t know how to act doing so in Boston. But at the heart, he’s really someone who thinks the world revolves around him and can’t take responsibility when something bad happens. So in the wake of losing his job for his program allegedly paying off a high ceiling recruit, he’s suing Louisville for breach of contract because, he says, he didn’t do anything. Just as the Celtics were too young, inexperienced, etc. It’s never about Rick, it always someone else being unfair. Got it. 
Trey Wingnut scolds Mrs. Brady For Being a Mother: In the aftermath of the SB loss to the Eagles, Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen was overheard telling her distraught daughter that sometimes you have to “let” the other team win. Since this is the social media age where anonymous tough guys roam, Twitter was aglow with nitwits picking up on that, led by idiot ESPN’er Trey Wingo scolding her by saying no one “let” Philly win, they earned it. Earth to Trey: A mom comforting a crying five-year-old sometimes don’t use the most precise words. Picking on someone in that circumstance make you feel like a tough guy, did it? 
Brady’s Tom-vs.-Time Hoo-Ha: On to more social media nonsense. Haven’t seen Tom vs. Time. Not interested in doing so. But, while much of New England gave it a fawning reception, the takeaway outside the region focused on Brady kissing his son on the lips. The implication being he did something wrong. By taking to social media, it’s true he courted its reaction. Which was OK where he plays, not OK where he doesn’t. Most likely because he usually beats their team like a drum, so they take to social media for a beatdown on a family issue. Tell me sports “fandom” hasn’t gone mad. 
No Whites Allowed in Black History Month: Hard not to notice the hoo-ha following an appreciative Tweet from the Boston Police Department during Black History Month about Rick Auerbach’s role in the NBA’s integration. It met with indignant responses as losing mayoral candidate Tito Jackson called it “tone deaf” and the NAACP’s local chapter called honoring a white man for hiring a black person during Black History Month “perplexing and sad.” Sorry folks, what’s sad is the desire by some to paint over black history as just being about black people. Especially when Webster defines history as the whole series of past events connected with someone or something. From Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King to Rosa Parks to Larry Doby, Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson in sports, there certainly are many African-Americans to justifiably honor each year. But not recognizing what Red did because he’s white is wrong, revisionism, or even a reverse form of racism. He did more than just “hire” a black person. He had the courage to swim against the tide in a racist city during a racist time to hire the best person for the job when it was bad business to do so, particularly when the Celtics were struggling to financially survive. And by being the first to draft a black player (Chuck Cooper), having the first all-black starting five and naming Bill Russell as the first African-American head coach since 1920 he impacted the evolution toward real equality in a very positive way. As Branch Rickey and Happy Chandler did in baseball and Abraham Lincoln, with others, in a much larger way to end slavery. So while none of that should overshadow the contributions of great African-Americans, you can’t sweep it away either, because all of it is part of the black history story. 
Email dlong@hippopress.com. 





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