At Least They Play
Major college sports has many problems.
Too many scholarship athletes enter college for the wrong reasons. Their sport is certainly a big reason why they attend college, but so too should they be getting a quality education and experiencing so many new things and people.
At times, with the latest examples in the Southeastern Conference and at Minnesota, this leads to academic fraud, which I find more egregious than the disproportion of money causing a ground swell that will eventually lead to major changes.
Of course, the troubling money issues, such as players being lured to campus with bags of cash and material promises, as well as the fact that schools are benefitting from athletes' labor, gain more press because it can attack the very nature of amateur athletics: its amateurism.
There have even been a few point shaving scandals, meaning players altered the final scores of a games in exchange for cash so the games were fixed and easy money was made by betters in the know.
But for all that can go wrong, which doesn't happen nearly as much as too many people believe, college sports teams don't go on strike. They don't threaten to walk because $4.5 M a year isn't enough for a .245 hitting outfielder with mediocre power and a .290 on base percentage, or a 6-foot-10 former phenom who left school two or three years too early and averages about 12 minutes a night and has the work ethic of a beggar. They don't renegotiate contracts or get $120 a day meal money. They don't demand trades or boycott the press, at least for the most part as some do transfer and some clearly don't like the media. They play.
There will be college football every fall as long as we are a free society. College hoops? It isn't going anywhere either. Duke-UNC? It will always be played. UNC-State? Yep, every year, once in football and at least twice in basketball.
People will always have a place to tailgate. The cheerleaders and dance team girls will never go away. Mascots, like Ramses, the Victory Bell, touching Howard's Rock and running down the hill, Tennessee's walk, Army-Navy, the Hatfields and the McCoys - a.k.a. Clemson-South Carolina, The Big House, the 12th Man, The Big Game, Cameron Crazies, Beware of the Phog, trying to live up to those named Wooden, Smith and Rupp, and so many other things that make college sports so special aren't going away either.
It's not pure, but it's the closest thing we have to it anymore.
Will Baseball Strike Out?
Major League baseball players may or may not set a strike date today, but when the time comes that they do and then follow up with an actual work stoppage, the game is over as we know it.
I love baseball. I have a passion for the game and its incredibly rich history. But I hate work stoppages. I hate the greed - from both sides - that cause the interruptions, and I absolutely despise Donald Fehr, a man with zero interest at all in what is best for the game and its future.
If the players eventually strike, something that would, for the most part, be instigated by a bunch of owners with little regard for the truth, the game will never be the same. Most baseball fans eventually came back after the blasphemous cancellation of the 1994 World Series, but this scribe bets few will come back again. And, despite my love for the game and the Baltimore Orioles, I can't blame them.
As a fan who still gets goose bumps at the sight of a beautifully manicured infield as I did at the age of eight when walking into a ballpark, it will be difficult to come back.
The players make a disgusting amount of money, although the owners say they don't have any despite somehow justifying giving the Carlos Delgados of the world $17 M a year. The whiney owners won't open their books but still pay the players, whom I don't begrudge making the big bucks for the most part. The Idiot-in-Chief of baseball, Bud Selig, wants to rip two, if not more teams, away even though he presided over expansion four years ago, which followed expansion in 1992. Of course none of this makes sense, but neither does a strike or lock-out.
Ted Williams, the Splendid Splinter who passed away last week, gave nearly five years of his career to fight for this nation in WWII and the Korean War. He did so because he believed in the freedoms that define our nation, such as those enjoyed by the players. Perhaps today's ballplayers should use Teddy Ballgame as an example and do what is right for the big picture: the sport.
If there is a work stoppage it's likely more jobs than what would be lost in a two-team contraction would disappear. Throw in teams like the Royals, Devil Rays, White Sox, Tigers, Pirates, Padres and more (new ballparks and historical franchises or not) that will also likely go down with a lengthy interruption. The owners proved they aren't too interested in the fans as much as they are in greed and control when they hired Selig and gave him a recent extension. Now is the time for the players to show the fans they care as much about the game as they do their bank accounts. Otherwise they'll be facing an ugly dose of reality they are now conveniently ignoring.
The ACC's Image
The growing number of college football preview magazines appear to agree that ACC footbal isn't worth a whole lot. The national media members, even many in our own backyard, continue to blast the ACC as nothing but a basketball conference. The football, however, has been good for years. Yet despite Florida State's dominance since it joined a decade ago, there have been other fine teams, and the depth of the conference has never been greater.
I do agree that ACC football should be better, but I am also confident that it is improving. In doing things with a little more respect for the rules than most other major conferences - if not all - the ACC will always be at a disadvantage. But the quality of the football may not match, team for team, the Big Ten and Pac-10 half the time, and the SEC and top of the Big XII all the time, but it deserves more respect. This year's non-conference slate, save for N.C. State, provides the conference an opportunity to make some noise.
At a future date I will do a more lengthy piece to support my opinion on this matter, but for now I wanted to bring it up for the sake of the weekly question to the readers. Do you feel the ACC is unfairly stereotyped as a basketball conference with poor football, or do you think such a perception is accurate and the league's football teams aren't worth watching?
Every week I will post at least one response from the previous week's question.
Last Week's Response
In response to last week's question about the 10 most intriguing stories of the previous ACC sports year, Greg Mulzet (UNC class of '95) of Los Angeles wrote, "You are right in putting the UNC basketball collapse at the top of the list of ACC stories for this past year- I believe it belongs there by itself. The most telling moment of the season to me was the team's freshmen approaching Doherty with the demand that "something has to change." We all had excuses for the season, whether it was Guthridge's recruiting or Doherty's "green-ness". The collapse, as horrible as it was, was understandable, and the team and coach supported. For me, however, this event with the freshmen put legitimate fear in my heart about the future of UNC basketball. On the other hand, the season made me a better fan. No longer am I watching hoping for the great streaks to continue. No longer am I watching as the oft maligned "UNC fair-weather fan"- with unrealistically high expectations and low tolerance for failure. The events of the season have removed all predictability, and I am now watching because I love UNC basketball.
Andrew Jones is entering his seventh year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He is also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a drive-time radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.