Tressel product of flawed system

BY Jason Whitlock • May 31, 2011

There’s a best-selling book out about ESPN, “Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World Of ESPN.” Most people think it’s about Keith Olbermann’s ego, Michelle Beadle’s loathing of Erin Andrews, and wild sex and partying in Bristol, Conn.

It’s not. At the book’s outset and at its best, authors James Miller and Tom Shales document how a group of businessmen and entrepreneurs built a multibillion-dollar TV network from the foundation of broadcasting tape-delayed college football games and live NCAA tournament basketball games.

NCAA shamateurism birthed the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports.

It should come as no surprise that in 2011, even with big-time college athletics grotesquely sick with corruption incubated by the lie of amateurism, no major media outlet will mount a serious, consistent call for an overhaul of NCAA rules.

We owe our existence to the exploitation of shamateur football and basketball players. We must support the lie.

And today that means we all fall in line and go along with the charade that there’s something unique about the lies that undid Jim Tressel at Ohio State. According to Sports Illustrated’s narrative, Tressel is the Jimmy Swaggart of football coaches, a willfully ignorant, pious hypocrite.

Tressel pretended to have virtue when all he really cared about was winning football games.

I naively thought that act was a requirement for all college coaches. But Tressel’s critics are outraged because he pulled off the act better than Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Pat Summit, Vivian Stringer, Bo Pelini ... I could go on and on.

I like coaches. I respect coaches. They taught me several life lessons that remain with me to this day. But I’m not stupid about what motivates them. They want to win. They want to earn. And they hope they help more kids than they hurt while they’re winning and earning.

Jim Tressel is not special. He’s not particularly sinister or fraudulent. He’s an executive in a major industry who is taking the fall so the lie can continue long enough for the major players to come up with a new batch of lies.

Tressel, Bruce Pearl and probably a few coaches I can’t remember right now lied to the NCAA about NCAA rules.

Oh, the horror.

A prostitute lied to her pimp.

Kids on a football team traded memorabilia for tats, weed and cars. We already knew or suspected all of this, but Sports Illustrated repackaged all of this information, painted the picture that Tressel called himself “Jesus,” and then the magazine pretended that Tressel’s demise wasn’t sealed until it informed Ohio State administrators about his horrific pattern of corruption.

Kids traded their possessions for things they wanted, and Tressel feigned he didn’t know anything about it.

Oh, the horror.

Tressel would appear more honorable if he recruited kids and then jumped from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida in a span of three or four years.

NCAA rules, the myth of amateurism and television money turn college coaches into liars.

The rules are worse than the people.

Why does the story keep getting framed around the people? Why do we keep demonizing the people rather than rules that NCAA architect Walter Byers chastised in his 1995 book, “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting the Student-Athlete?”

“Today the NCAA Presidents Commission,” Byers wrote, “is preoccupied with tightening a few loose bolts in a worn machine, firmly committed to the neo-plantation belief that enormous proceeds from college games belong to the overseers (administrators) and supervisors (coaches). The plantation workers performing in the arena may only receive those benefits authorized by the overseers.”

You can tell the Ohio State tattoo story without making Tressel the main target of vitriol and scorn. You can blame the myth of amateurism and how that fable breeds corruption.

Are coaches really supposed to interrupt the moneymaking machine by monitoring how their players are paying for tattoos, weed and cars? If coaches took the time to hunt down what their players were really doing away from the field or court, the coaches would never have time to coach, feed the media hype machines and make sure players occasionally attend classes.

College athletics is big business. Read the ESPN book to get an understanding of how big sports businesses operate.

Secretaries were turning tricks at ESPN. Drugs were being sold and used. Sexual harassment was the norm. Executives looked the other way because there was too much money riding on the success of the network.

Read the ESPN book and imagine what it would read like if Chris Berman, Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, Stuart Scott and the other on-air talent were being paid in broadcasting classes.

You think anyone would care about a rule book?

You think Jim Tressel is special because he lied to NCAA investigators?

The system is the evil lie. The system is the problem. But the system dangles the promise of creating new worldwide media leaders so the farce continues.

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