Three years ago, the eminent civil rights historian Taylor Branch wrote a scathing essay in The Atlantic that compared college athletics to slavery. In that piece, he wrote that college sports carried with it “the unmistakeable whiff of the plantation.” Comparisons to slavery cannot be brought lightly, of course. This is not Kristallnacht after all.
Three years later, the plantation house still stands. As if we are taking a remedial class taught by Howard Zinn, we now arrive at organized labor. This week, it was reported that members of Northwestern University’s football team had filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board in order to be recognized as a labor union. If successful, communism.
Whether you believe that college football players should be granted fifteen minute smoke breaks every four hours or not, I think it’s safe to say that we all fervently pray for the day that the NCAA perishes after a long, yet valiant, struggle with butt cancer. Because of that, there were very few outright denunciations of Northwestern University’s actions in the media this week. Still, let’s get a lay of the land, shall we?
Let’s talk Samuel Gompers. Let’s talk Hoffa. Let’s talk sports….
THIS HUDDLE IS A CLOSED SHOP
About the best the NCAA can hope for in coverage of its ongoing war on common sense is a patronizing article on what they should be doing. See, e.g.:
Hours after the story broke yesterday that Northwestern University’s football team had filed paperwork to form a union, the NCAA made its position clear: Student-athletes cannot also be employees, or at least not without defeating “the purpose of college: an education.” (Better quit that work-study job at the library, kid; it’s making you dumb.)
The response was not a surprise. It was also extremely short-sighted. The NCAA should be begging college athletes to form a union.
I absolutely loathe the NCAA. But I also loathe dichotomous views of obviously complex situations. And the idea that the NCAA is making a mistake by sending the Pinkertons in to break a few Northwestern skulls does not jibe with any negotiation strategy I’m familiar with. Of course the NCAA will initially stick with the extreme position it brings to the bargaining table. To roll over now would be tantamount to admitting that the entire amateur athletic complex is a traveshamockery built on sand. Quicksand. Or just regular sand, whatever.
What about Romania?:
NCAA president Mark Emmert continues to prattle on about the sanctity of the “student-athlete,” the amateur. At this point, he might as well be Nicolae Ceausescu touting the glories of communism to a square filled with citizens in the throes of democratic revolt. Northwestern’s proposed union gives him and the NCAA a life preserver, a way to maintain something pretty closely resembling the lucrative status quo, including its asymmetrical power arrangement.
Perhaps it is like Ceausescu bloviating madly. Perhaps instead the NCAA should relax. Liberalize. Maybe give the athletes a nibble of freedom. They can call it glasnost or something. Sh*t, I don’t know. Maybe that’s the key to thwarting the democratic yearning that resides deep inside the breast of every sentient man and/or woman.
ELI MANNING SELLS FAKE GUCCI PURSES IN CHINATOWN
I collected baseball cards as a kid. My mom, and occasionally my uncle Andy, would drag me to shows and stores, splurging on a couple wax packs or maybe even a Pete Incaviglia rookie card.
Anyway, the sports collectible business was filled with lowlifes, scumbags, and dorks back when I was hustling from table to booth. And so it is that Eli Manning was accused this week of peddling fake merchandise to a memorabilia dealer. In a lawsuit filed in New Jersey, Eric Inselberg alleges that Eli Manning sold him imitation game-worn jerseys:
The suit claims that Giants’ employees created and sold dozens of fake items “for personal gain and out of cold indifference to the importance fans and memorabilia collectors place on authentic pieces of sports history.”
I don’t know about you, but I find cold indifference towards nerd collectors’ inflated desire to smell famous sweat to be a positive. Besides, who the hell wants a game-worn Eli jersey? If anything, this week is the absolute wrong time to file a lawsuit based on the value of an Eli “Frank Stallone” Manning jersey. Everyone and their mother knows that there is only one way in which the crappy brother makes a mark in the sports collectible industry.
I’ve got two words for you, Eli Manning: F**k Face.
RAP SHEET ROLL CALL
* A New York prostitution ring centered around the Super Bowl was busted yesterday. Reached for comment, Lawrence Taylor just smiled nostalgically.
* Two alleged accomplices to last month’s Russian suicide bombings were arrested on Wednesday. The two men are alleged to have been close to the bombers. But not that close, according to the Sochi mayor.
* Yakult Swallows slugger Wladimir Balentien apologized to his Japanese fans after pleading not guilty to domestic violence charges. Then committed seppuku.