And, yes, this sports editor of yesteryear must admit that sports remains an abiding interest.
But my love of sports is shaken by its ever-increasing dark side: steroid scandals, money above all else, tut-tuting of recruiting violations, exploiting athletes and senseless violence.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association suspended Jim Calhoun, Connecticut basketball coach, for three days for recruitment cheating. But: the suspension takes place next season, not during the championship last March.
Calhoun makes $2.3 million a year, the highest-paid state employee in Connecticut. Obviously he’s too valuable a “personality” to miss the tournament. The “program,” as Division 1 teams are euphemistically called, is all about making money.
Jim Tressel, under fire in a widening scandal, resigned Monday as coach of the Ohio State football team. He failed two ethics tests: honesty and integrity. Yet OSU paid him $3.7 million a year because his teams won.
The coaches are enriched but the players get a pittance in scholarships. Student tuition goes up to help pay exorbitant coaching salaries.
Sports pays. Academics? That’s for idiot idealists.
What a waste!
The Feds spent eight years and millions of dollars investigating Barry Bonds only to bring forth a mouse. Moreover, the steroid scandal was a baseball matter, not the government’s lookout.
A U.S. District Court jury convicted Bonds of obstructing justice. But every baseball fan knew that. Bonds was a colossal cheat. His record of 73 home runs in a season is tainted.
His potato head proved he was using performance-enhancing drugs. His former girl friend testified during the trial how devastating steroids are to the body.
The “ex,” Kimberly Bell, said Bonds’ “face and belly became bloated, his back developed acne, his hair fell out, his testicles shrank and he had trouble maintaining an erection.”
Similarly, the Feds are investigating Tour de France great Lance Armstrong for doping allegations. That too is a matter for French authorities.
That aside, very fan knows that professional cycling has become a sordid business.
The National Hockey League continues to tolerate head-hunting, goons and fighting.
Yeah, fans love that stuff. It’s a contact sport, right?
As for goons, they can’t play hockey but they chop down players who can.
Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, today’s Wayne Gretsky, was hit from behind in a January game by Victor Hedman, headhunter for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He sidelined Crosby for the season.
Hockey is a swift, often beautiful game. It should not be marred by goons and fighting.
The First Amendment doesn’t apply to the National Basketball Association--but it should.
The NBA recently fined Kobe Bryant, star of the Los Angeles Lakers, $100,000 for hurling “an obscene antigay slur” at a referee during an August baskektball game.
The fine violates his First Amendment right of free speech,
No one weeps for the multimillionare Bryant to whom one hundred thou is chump change. But this a defense of even ugly language under the magnificent First Amendment.
As Justice William O. Douglas noted in dissent in the 1972 Miller decision: “The First Amendment was not fashioned as a vehicle for dispensing tranquilizers to the people. Its prime function was to keep debate open to ‘offensive’ as well as to ‘staid’ people.”
Nevertheless learned opinion disagrees.
Ben Holden, director of the National Center for the Courts & Media in Reno, notes that the NBA is not a government entity so the First Amendment does not apply.
Professor Warren Lerude of the University of Nevada, Reno, journalism school, makes it clear that employers can set “house rules” for employee conduct.
And journalism Professor Paul Mitchell defends the policy: “A personal conduct rule allows the NBA to police statements and actions of athletes. The league would like to keep its good image.”
All sensible arguments. But dress codes are one thing. The First Amendment is too important to be cavalierly tossed aside for the sake of gentility.
The New York Times went to great lengths to report the cursing incident but readers were left ignorant of what Bryant said.
Readers of the Times are adults. The Victorian Age is long past. The hoary tradition of a “family newspaper” is absurd.
And, the story is incomplete without the precise words. That incompleteness would not be tolerated in any other kind of story. It should not be tolerated in the Bryant case.
The words were: “fucking faggot.” Despicable, yes. But it should be protected speech.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.