Another point-shaving scandal/gambling-influenced game results scandal has afflicted college basketball. Such things have happened in the past such as at CCNY in the early 50s, St. Josephs in the early 60s and Arizona State in the late 90s. There have to have been others, but those are the obvious historical precedents. Now, the focus is the University of San Diego; and a grand jury has handed down indictments against a couple of former players and a former assistant coach. Let me be clear here; these folks are charged with doing these things; they remain innocent until a prosecutor can convince a jury that the indictments were accurate.
While the legal process plays itself out according to the procedural opera prescribed by US jurisprudence, allow me to ask a question that can be answered before any trial occurs or any motions are filed:
What role did the NCAA “enforcement gurus” have in leading the authorities to the point that the authorities sought indictments?
The NCAA will wring its hands and moan hysterically about the evils of gambling and how it can contaminate collegiate sports. OK, if they believe that, what have they done to minimize that contamination? More specifically:
Did the NCAA investigative “experts” know anything prior to the legal investigators here that made these indictments inevitable – - or even possible?
Since the NCAA mavens have had no role in the exposure of previous scandals of this flavor, my assumption going in is that they learned about all this when they read about it in the papers – - or online. Now, if that is the case, here is an extremely fair question to pose to the NCAA and the people in charge of running it:
Exactly what do the folks in the “enforcement division” do for a living when it comes to dealing with improper influence by gamblers on college athletes?
Perhaps we need to ask another question with a relatively obvious answer here:
Are the geniuses in your “enforcement division” still amazed to learn that some college football players might be taking some money under the table to “take their talents” to a specific school?
Last Monday night, the Washington Nationals made up a rainout game in Pittsburgh. The announced crowd was 12,457. This was a Monday night; the game was not one on the original schedule for the Pirates; the weather that night was anything but inviting for fans to watch a baseball game; both teams stink. Given all that, a crowd of 12,457 would have been understandable – - if not laudable. However, I saw that game on TV – - or at least the first 5 innings – - here in the DC area and from the crowd shots before and during the game, I would have to say that the number of fannies in seats in the stadium had to be less than 5000 and was probably closer to 1500 than it was to 5000. I have been to many a minor league game where there were more folks in the stands watching what was happening on the field.
In the movie, Field of Dreams, the mantra is, “If you build it, they will come.” In the case of the movie, “they” does not refer to cheering throngs of paying fans. In Pittsburgh – - where they have already built an exceptional baseball venue – -, “they” will not come just for the sake of coming. On a less-than-comfy April night and with a game between two AAA quality teams, fans do not show up. The club can pretend there were 12,000+ fans in the seats. The club can live in a delusion all it wants. That never happened…
I have noticed a bad trend starting on televised baseball games. The use of the superimposed strike-zone box was an interesting innovation a decade ago. Today, its inability to deal with sharp breaking curveballs or sinkers that drop like a rock as they arrive in the vicinity of home plate makes it as frustrating as it is informative. About a week ago, I noticed that strike-zone boxes were showing up on the live broadcast and not just on the replays. Let me go on the record here as clearly as I can:
This is an idea whose time ought never to come.
Here is a comment from Frank Fitzpatrick in the Philadelphia Inquirer regarding something he saw on TV while watching a Phillies game on TV:
“A female fan in a pink Phillies cap and pink jersey has been aiming her cell-phone camera at something on the field for several minutes now. Another great idea. After all, the Phillies are so rarely photographed and their games so infrequently televised that I think all of us long to know what they look like. Suggestion: Sit down. Have a beer. Watch the game. Burn the outfit.”
May I only say that Brother Fitzpatrick has brought us a testimony of universal truth here. AMEN, my brother…!
The final episode of Oprah Winfrey’s syndicated talk show/sob fest will happen on 25 May according to various reports. I checked several of the Internet betting sites to see if they had posted odds on what genre of guest would fill the final seat on the program. I could not find odds on this anywhere. So, as a public service, allow me to present the potential categories of folks to fill that final chair; the professional oddsmakers can assign numbers here better than I can:
1. Someone that half of US society would independently identify as a pervert.
2. A celebrity who is addicted to something – - preferably something other than booze or illegal drugs.
3. The victim of some horrible circumstances that are totally beyond the control of the victim – - whether or not the victim has truly been victimized.
4. An author shamelessly kissing Oprah’s butt in return for her endorsement of his/her book that will not sell 1000 copies without Oprah’s endorsement – - regardless of whether or not she ever opened the book.
Finally, an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times regarding the NCAA enforcement mavens:
“Southern University has fired athletic director Greg LaFleur after he was charged with soliciting a prostitute.
“Now that’s what you’d call a major recruiting violation.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…