Let The World Series Begin

I know that Monday is typically the time to review the football happenings from last weekend, but I’ll kick that can down the road this week because there are a couple of things I want to get to first.  At the start of the MLB playoffs, I picked the Indians and the Dodgers to be in the World Series.  The Yankees derailed that prediction by eliminating the Indians and then the Astros secured the American League slot in the Series.  In the NL, the Dodgers cruised to victory.

One of the readers of these rants is a former colleague who has seen them from a time when they were not on the Internet; they were merely an e-mail feature.  He is a rabid Dodgers’ fan and when I mentioned that my pick to win the Series was the Indians, he called that selection wishy-washy and demanded specificity.  My reply was:

  • Indians in 6 games.  Final score in Game 6 is 5-2.

That met his “specificity” request and so I’ll stick by that prediction here but change the Indians to the Astros.  So, there it is …

Recall that I wrote recently about the Commission on College Basketball convened by the NCAA.  Here is some of what NCAA President, Mark Emmert, had to say about the core mission of this Commission:

“I believe we can – and we must – find a way to protect the integrity of college sports by addressing both sides of the coin:  fairness and opportunity for college athletes coupled with enforcement capability to hold accountable those who undermine the standards of our community.”

Given how easily UNC “skated” on the charges of academic fraud – simply by pointing out that any student at UNC had the same opportunity to take these sham courses for meaningless high grades – there is now NOTHING to prevent each and every other school involved with NCAA football and/or basketball to do the same thing.  They can do this to keep completely ineducable “student-athletes” eligible and can devalue the diplomas of other students who merely attended the school that offered such sham courses.  What the NCAA must do is to come up with a deterrent.

The problem is that the deterrent needs to be on the economic axis because the motivation(s) to cheat on NCAA rules is that schools who cheat and become successful command more money for their athletic programs and teams.  It seems to me that leaves the NCAA with only a couple of avenues:

  • Carve out the authority to levy fines on schools that mimic UNC’s sham course formula and those fines need to be able to get into the 8-figure range if need be.
  • Start handing out suspensions to schools meaning they cannot participate in any conference games or playoff tournaments for periods of time.  That sanction will cost the school money AND it will also cost the conferences money and that might goose the self-enforcement activities just a bit.

The Commission has been “chartered” but will not meet until some time in November.  The Final Four dates for this season are set for March 31 – April 2, 2018.  I wish I could get a bet down on the proposition that whatever the Commission comes up with in terms of analysis, findings and recommendations will not be revealed until after April 2, 2018.  I do not expect the Commission report to have any blockbusters in it; nonetheless, there is no way this is going to be part of any public discussion until after the basketball season is over.

The other college basketball scandal – the so-called “bribing” of players to choose which school they will attend – is evidently an ongoing concern involving the FBI and the DoJ.  I still do not understand how and why this is a Federal criminal violation but I certainly see how it is a wrecking ball to the foundation pieces of the NCAA’s slavish devotion to amateurism in college sports.  I am now beginning to “have an issue” with some of the coverage given to the Federal probe.

After decrying the evil of the “underground recruiting economy” and focusing on the firing of Rick Pitino and the AD at Louisville, some of the national basketball commentators have moved on to the business of “tut-tutting” about how this Federal probe has brought to light what “lots of people knew about” for a long time.  When I read that sort of thing, my reaction is simple:

  • If you were one of those “lots of people”, how come you did not expose this long ago?
  • If you weren’t one of those “lots of people” and you were “covering” this beat, how did you miss it?

I am not the least bit surprised that recruiting scandals have gone on in college sports for decades but I am not going to try to insinuate that I had any inkling of how it worked and that money was being funneled from shoe companies to high school prospects and their families.  And I resent commentators making that sort of insinuation without also pointing out simultaneously that they missed the boat on revealing this practice earlier on.

That sort of “tut-tutting” is exactly what we saw from the baseball writers back around the turn of the century when the “steroid business” and BALCO came to light.  Lots of them said that substance abuse was and open secret in locker rooms and that “everyone knew that stuff was going on”.  Yet, none of them wrote about it until one guy asked about a bottle of stuff in plain view in Mark McGuire’s locker and José Canseco admitted that he was a PED user and so were others.  You can’t be an “expert” and “ignorant” at the same time…

The revelation of this Federal investigation comes at a most convenient time for the NCAA.  They dragged their feet on the UNC matter for years and years until they had cover to make their decision public.  This criminal probe provides that cover since it diverts attention from some existential issues for the NCAA

  • The “amateurism ideal” for college athletics demands the creation of the concept of the “student-athlete”.  He gets a scholarship – and a shot at a free college education – in exchange for his athletic endeavors; it is a barter exchange.
  • However, if the university does not provide him with the opportunity to get that free college education by steering him to courses that teach him nothing of value, then his “student-hood” is as much of a sham as the courses are.
  • So, if the NCAA actually cares even a little bit about the “student” part of “student athlete”, they must not ignore academic frauds such as the one at UNC.  Or, they can just admit that the whole idea of the “student-athlete” is nonsense.  Academic fraud destroys the concept of “education” which is precisely what a “student” is in the process of acquiring.

Finally, with the Dodgers in the World Series, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times about a former dodgers’ player:

“Ex-San Cristobal mayor Raul Mondesi — the 1994 NL Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers — has been sentenced to eight years in a Dominican prison and fined $1.25 million for corruption and mishandling of public funds.

“That’s what you call a costly caught-stealing.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



10 thoughts on “Let The World Series Begin”

  1. As the “rabid Dodger fan” to whom the Sports Curmudgeon refers, I believe he underestimates the depth and quality of the 2017 Dodger team. His prediction of a six-game series seems correct, but I would put the Dodgers on the winning side.

    1. Dangerfield:

      It ought to be a great Series. In no way do I underestimate the depth or the quality of the 2017 Dodgers; they won 104 games (more than any other team in MLB) and cruised to their division title despite a horrid losing streak in August. I just like the Astros…

  2. I had to re-read and practice the word “ineducable” several times in my head. Perhaps I took too many sham courses at the University of Washington?

  3. Here is a parallel to the FBI investigation of college badketball. I believe I have the history right here. The infamous Chicago Black Sox of 1919 were NOT convicted in criminal court. Reason: there was no federal law against throwing baseball games. Commissioner Landis, that paragon of legal rectitude, banned them anyway.

    1. Gil:

      Indeed the Black Sox were not convicted at trial and then Commish Landis banned them from baseball just because he could. The same situation could obtain here where the NCAA imposes sanctions (as it should because its rules were apparently shattered) even though I think the legal theory of “bribery” and/or “fraud” is flimsy at best.

  4. The Dodgers have had the talent for years, but their problem had been clubhouse chemistry leading to indifferent performance. Perhaps moving to Roberts was the right idea, and it doesn’t hurt that Kershaw isn’t under-performing in the big games.

    The addition of Darvish also looks like a win as well, and he will have many details about the Astros from his time in Texas.

    What the Astros bring is (IMHO) a better connection as a team and they are not as likely to let bad breaks turn into losing streaks.

    1. rugger9:

      No one – not even a Dodger fan afflicted with perfectionist tendencies – can complain about Clayton Kershaw’s performance in Game 1 last night.

  5. I had noted before that this could be coming to the point where the NCAA “crosses the Rubicon” about who they are and whether it will survive.

    Big Ten Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has noted this, and while encouraged by the formation of a blue-ribbon commission he also made it clear that the NCAA needed to get back to the “student athlete” model ASAP. Given that he also has West Coast ties (IIRC he was Stanford’s AD earlier) he has a broader foundation for his observations here. The useful question is whether that ship has sailed already, just ask Josh Rosen.


    1. rugger9:

      The NCAA “governance model” is broken because the member schools want it to be broken. In order to govern, cities and states need to have police forces. That is the reality of human nature; there has to be an enforcement arm of governance with the power/authority to punish wrongdoing as defined by the laws/rules. The member schools have made it such that the NCAA has no enforcement capability. Ergo, as currently configured and empowered, the NCAA is pretty much useless.

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