Friday, September 4, 2009

The NCAA Takes Fans for Idiots...Oregon RB Blount Turns Table on NCAA

In the biggest sham since Reggie Bush called himself an amateur college athlete, the NCAA implemented a new initiative this year trying to promote sportsmanship where the teams engage in a pregame handshake. The thought is that the NCAA will be able to soften its image slightly and show that these student-athletes are in fact rational humans totally in control of their emotions. The college football player isn't like those shady NFL guys getting arrested all the time and making it rain at a local establishment near you. No, these are just kids having fun and playing for the love of the game! They're not crazy! Look...they even shake hands BEFORE the game.

This would seem like a good plan on its surface and might in fact somehow work if know...the college football players weren't crazy athletic people with a penchant for violence. NCAA meet LeGarrette Blount, Oregon starting running back. You may remember him for such quotes in the newspaper as "We owe (Boise State) an ass-whuppin'." And LeGarrette Blount may be eight kinds of crazy...but he ain't no liar! And when he says he'll whoop some ass...he's gonna whoop some ass. Game or no game.

After Boise State completely shut down the vaunted Ducks offense, making Blount look slow and ineffective all night (8 carries for -5 yards), things got a little wild in the postgame. A Broncos D-lineman said a few things...Blount took offense...and then did what any rational person would do. He sucker-punched the dude. Obvi!

LeGarrette Blount is taking a beating for his actions, as he should, and ESPN is having a field day with this one (they conveniently used this to put Dr. Phil on their College Football Live show to talk about anger management or something), but Blount is merely a fraction of the issue here. And really, there are two big ones that I see:

1) Despite forcing the players to shake hands PRIOR to a game, the NCAA can't really tell us what to think about their student-athletes without the student-athletes telling us themselves. Coaches spend all week building up a hatred for an opponent, and you're telling me that these kids want to shake hands BEFORE they try to beat up the other team on the field? Give me a break. We're fans. Short for fanatic. We waste a decent portion of our lives working up a hatred for an opponent that we hope some 18-22 year old kids will act upon for us once a year. You really think we can't see through some half-hearted handshake that you forced sometime to take part in? Please, this postgame handshake was one of the things I liked about college football, and it is good enough sportsmanship as it is. Players have the choice to show a geniune respect for their opponent by seeking them out after the game. At least it's genuine.

2) Some of these "student"-athletes never cease to amaze us with their total loss of perspective. Did Blount really think any of the 10 ESPN cameras wouldn't catch him hitting the Boise State guy? Did he really think he could punch his teammate and not have him be pissed? And what about someone getting ready to "allegedly" throw a chair at you (as Blount alleged was his reason for going after the fans) makes you want to jump into the stands towards that person? Jeff Pearlman has an excellent article up on about Brandon Marshall and his loss of perspective on the reality that 1,000 yard receivers are a dime a dozen. And few are remembered famously after their career. Well, the list of great college running backs who get forgotten is 10x as long, and apparently LeGarrette Blount hasn't learned that yet, or wasn't taught it at JUCO. Some of these athletes think they're destined for the NFL no matter what, and don't quite care for the details of the rest of their life. And details like "not punching a teammate or opponent on national television" can directly affect their status in the League. You think teams won't throw up some HUGE red flags on Blount after this? HE PUNCHED HIS TEAMMATE!! And in an instant, boom...there goes a senior year's worth of highlights due to suspension.

This whole sequence reminded me of former Wisconsin running back Booker Stanley. Stanley was a decent running back, who provided some production despite being 3rd string. Yet he had incredible off the field problems, including beating the crap out of a dude at the Mifflin Street Block Party in Madison. I was there; I saw the fight; Booker destroyed the dude. And he got arrested. You might think that he would cool it a little bit, maybe take it easy for a while and...oh, I don't know...worry about his status on the team. Nope, not Booker. There I was standing in line at the KK that very same night, when some big dude behind me starts talking loudly...."I'm not a fighter, but I hit like a Mack truck. I'm serious, I will hit you like a Mack truck." Yep, Booker Stanley. Any perspective and he might not have been so surprised when Bielema threw his ass off the team.