Friday, September 20, 2013

Where's the outrage now?

Let's turn the way back machine to a few years ago. The Ohio State Buckeyes -- America's Team, Defenders of Western Civilization and All That Is Good About America, was on its way to the Sugar Bowl when it was revealed that several of their players had traded their own property (jerseys, autographs, championship rings; that last bit justifiably enraged Buckeye Nation) for tattoos. For some absurd reason, this was a violation of NCAA rules, but they were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl. It became a scandal that engulfed head coach Jim Tressel and cost him his job on the grounds that he had not told his superiors and had lied to the NCAA about not knowing of the rules violation. There is considerable belief in Buckeye Nation that Tressel, in fact, did tell his superior, Athletic Director Gene Smith, about the issue and that Smith himself did not tell anyone, lied about it, and scapegoated Tressel to save his own butt.

Through 2011, ESPN consistently had Ohio State on trial. The NCAA sandbagged Ohio State, by, for instance, waiting until receiver DeVier Posey was about to complete his NCAA-mandated suspension before suspending him again, this time for being paid too much at a construction job, even though he was being paid consistent with union-required prevailing wage rules.

Gene Smith, in one of his dumbest and most inexcusable decisions, had the Buckeyes play in the Gator Bowl. The NCAA came down later with a ridiculous punishment: vacating the entire 2010 (which had been stupidly offered by Smith) and 2011 seasons, a one year bowl ban, and some scholarship reductions. The alumni wanted Smith's head, and still do -- he is regularly booed at public appearances. His job may have been saved only by his landing Urban Meyer as new head coach.

The most memorable feature of this "scandal" was the constant coverage and abuse Ohio State took at the hands of the sports media, ESPN in particular. Ohio State and Jim Tressel were vilified.

This was on the heels of the scandal in which Cecil Newton, the father of Cam Newton, was found to have solicited payments from schools who were recruiting his son. The NCAA did nothing about this. So, soliciting payments is OK, but selling your own property is not.

Or is it?

Since then, we've had multiple NCAA scandals, including academic fraud at North Carolina; Oregon paying a recruiting service; prostitutes, drugs, and payments at Miami;  DJ Fluker allegedly taking payments at Alabama; Oklahoma State doing ... something ... maybe ...; and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel selling his autographs. Manziel's case is particularly revealing, but we'll get to that.

The first thing to note here is that all of these scandals combined did not get the coverage the Ohio State matter did. Not even close. Like Caesar in the Senate on the Ides of March, everyone in the media outside Ohio wanted to stick a knife in the Buckeyes, starting with ESPN's Kirk "Culture of Corruption" Herbstriet, a mediocre quarterback for the Buckeyes under the even more mediocre John Cooper.

(You see, you must understand. For those of us who attended Ohio State in the John Cooper era, there is just no getting over it. Every week was like being the Romans facing Hannibal. I call it "Post-Idiotic Stress Disorder.")

Anyway, somehow those knives don't seem to be out for Alabama, or Texas A&M. Oregon got almost nothing of a punishment. As bad as the violations at Miami are alleged to be, the NCAA has been turned into the villain -- and justifiably so -- by its corrupt practices during the investigation. Yet the NCAA was just as corrupt with Ohio State.

Perhaps most infuriating is the Johnny Manziel saga. Manziel sold his own property -- exactly the "crimes" for which Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, and the other Buckeyes were convicted. Yet, while the Buckeyes in some cases were suspended for half the 2011 season (Posey lost the other half of the season for the construction job), Manziel lost ... half a game. Seriously.

For exactly the same crime.

By itself, this should show that the NCAA is nothing but a bunch of lying, corrupt bastards whose "justice" is arbitrary and capricious, and NCAA head Mark Emmert is an arrogant, dishonest, sanctimonious jerk who plays favorites, but if you read Taylor Branch's excellent article "The Shame of College Sports" in the October 2011 issue of The Atlantic, you already knew that.

What's more interesting right now is the, say, "evolution" of the sports media. Those same people who couldn't wait to stick the knives in Terrelle Pryor and Ohio State are lining up to defend Johnny Manziel.

Two-faced? Or double-standard? Yes.

Ramzy Nasrallah details the hypocrisy and deceit by the sports media that piled on Ohio State. So you don't have to. If you are a member of Buckeye Nation like I am, read it and be enraged. And know that ESPN is not your friend.

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