My dear sweet girlfriend Stephanie doesn’t understand sports. To nothing and no one in particular, she will say “How can anyone get upset over the results of a game?” I mentally catalog my responses. That it’s a shared culture and every result arrives like a cascade of memories, connecting fathers and sons and entire families. Place and time all wrapped up and held within a blowout victory or a narrow loss. I get frustrated. I realize that she could never understand this compulsion. I would have better luck explaining what the color blue is. Words fail me as this column attests to on a semi-weekly basis. And my mind instinctively reaches for every illogical thing she does, from the interminably long morning routine to the row of bras, neatly displayed on a table in her living room. Explain the bras, Stephanie! If you’re such a cold, calculating machine, explain the terrifyingly ordered row of bras on the table!

This all happens in the span of fifteen seconds. And at the end of the psychic meltdown, I look over and see Stephanie staring off into space, not caring about sports or even those who care about sports. She doesn’t care about the question or the answer, I realize.

My dear sweet girlfriend Stephanie trolls me on a regular basis.

Let’s talk sports…

ED O’BANNON: RHYMES WITH CURT FLOOD

I’ve wasted a lot of time talking about the loathsome hypocrites at the NCAA. This is partially because I grew up in Kansas, without a professional sports team to call my own. It’s also because the NCAA is filled with and run by loathsome hypocrites.

Ed O’Bannon is the name plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks to destroy the NCAA once and for all. The lawsuit’s aim is simple: remuneration for athletes whose performance and likenesses have fueled a multimillion dollar industry and made multimillionaires of myriad non-athletes. Fair enough. A vast sea of money is made in the United States and the human beings responsible for it are not paid. I feel uncomfortable making any sort of historical comparisons here, so I won’t follow this to its logical conclusion. I won’t even say what our current system of amateurism resembles. But it rhymes with blavery.

This week, USC AD Pat Haden told a Sports Illustrated reporter that NCAA schools had to prepare for the possibility that O’Bannon’s suit might prevail. That colleges might be forced to pay their slaves student athletes. This realization that the NCAA as we know it might die a hilariously violent death has left most sports fans searching for answers. What will happen when John Calipari can openly pay basketball players? Will Reggie Bush get his Heisman back or did they already melt it down and sell it? Why is our vast minor league sports system connected to institutions of higher learning? Would this lawsuit have been as successful with Charles O’Bannon as the lead plaintiff?

Over at CNNSI, Andy Staples attempted to answer none of these questions. But he did do a pretty decent job of summarizing the O’Bannon lawsuit. Basically, what started out as an attempt to nibble at the vast fortunes being made on college athletes snowballed into a cataclysmic antitrust suit. For our purposes, the most interesting part of Staples’s explanation involves the players in this lawsuit. First off, he describes the parties:

The most visible plaintiffs are O’Bannon and former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller, but the legal team — with the help of perpetual athlete advocate/NCAA antagonist Sonny Vaccaro — has also attached such luminaries as Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell. The defendants are the NCAA, EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company. The CLC, founded by recently named Alabama athletic director Bill Battle, handles trademarks and licensing for most major schools, and it is now a division of IMG College.

In case you’re curious, IMG is the sports business behemoth that represents the nexus of money and sports. Amateurism is such a swell concept!

And now, for the lawyers involved:

The phalanx of plaintiffs’ attorneys is led Michael Hausfeld of Hausfeld LLP. Hausfeld has represented Native Americans in Alaska against Exxon after the Valdez spill, Holocaust victims against Swiss banks who kept their assets after World War II and consumers in the European Union’s antitrust case against Microsoft. The plaintiffs also are working with Ken Feinberg, who has organized distribution plans for financial settlements for 9/11 victims, those effected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, victims of the Aurora, Colo., theater shootings and sexual abuse victims of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Feinberg has been placed along with Vaccaro and National Collegiate Players Association president Ramogi Huma on the board of directors of the Former College Athletes Association. This likely would be the group through which any settlement funds would be distributed. The NCAA is represented primarily by Ann Arbor, Mich., firm Schiff Hardin LLP.

Holocaust victims, oil-stained sea life, 9/11 and Ed O’Bannon. A veritable who’s who of heart-rending historical images.

And what of Schiff Hardin’s weak blurb at the end? We’ve got a phalanx(!) of dick-swinging plaintiff’s attorneys who have resumes normally reserved for Chuck Norris jokes and then we have… Ann Arbor(?) firm Schiff Hardin. Like it’s some local outfit that normally dabbles in tenure hearings and horrific wolverine mishaps.

At any rate, I certainly hope Schiff Hardin comes as weak in their arguments as they did in Staples’s description of the firm. Because, you see, I have a rooting interest. Because sports aren’t fun unless you care so very deeply about the outcome. Maybe too deeply? You wouldn’t understand, Stephanie.

PISSY PRESS CONFERENCE POSTSCRIPT

Yesterday, NCAA President Mark Emmert had this to say about the lawsuits piling up against his organization:

“If you’re not getting sued today, you’re not doing anything,” Emmert said. “I don’t know anybody that doesn’t have litigation pending, so I’m not going to apologize for the fact that we have a very litigious society and there’s plenty of reasons to file suit against large organizations.”

Amateur athletics, the new asbestos!

RAP SHEET ROLL CALL

* Javaris Crittenton was indicted on murder charges. Crittenton was a member of the Wizards née Bullets. Coincidence???????

* Robert Guerrero, who is slated to face Floyd Mayweather in May, was arrested after trying to board a flight with an unloaded gun. Guerrero will now be forced to bring a knife to next month’s gun fight.

* A Penn State football recruit was arrested for trying to pass counterfeit cash. I’m not sure how the Penn State football program will ever recover from this embarrassment.

Ed O’Bannon v. the NCAA: A complete case primer [CNNSI]
Mark Emmert grilled by media [ESPN]


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