I’ve been amazed and appalled by the notes at the bottom of the daily sports pages. Each day, it seems, a different college football phenom is being arrested for some sort of vicious crime: assault & battery, rape, resisting arrest, selling and possession of drugs, drive-by shooting, etc. You name it, it’s happening.
But, why is it happening, what real damage is being done and who should be responsible? In terms of image and reputation, the player’s image takes a momentary hit. But, the coach is always there to defend the star as "innocent until proven guilty." And, the team takes a temporary hit when it loses its star stud before the big game with "State." But, the NCAA always seems to come away smelling like a rose. And ESPN, which lavishes amazing "game day" coverage each Saturday, also glosses over the crime sprees except, as noted before, if it means a key quarterback or lineman will miss an upcoming game. Then, their expert analysts will debate what the "key player loss" means to the team.
Now, juxtapose all of this nonsense against an old 1960s episode of "Leave it to Beaver" that I happened to catch on TV Land not too long ago. In the episode, the "Beav" had gotten in trouble for making a funny face that threatened to mar the entire class photograph (ah, for the simpler times). Anyway, the photo had already gone to the printer and it seemed there was little that anyone could do to rectify the situation. Beaver’s dad, Ward Cleaver, rushed off to the Grant Avenue Elementary School to meet with Beaver’s teacher (the always attractive Miss Landers) and the school principal. He assured them he’d take full responsibility for the incident, pay to have a new pic snapped and severely punish the Beav (who, as it turned out, was grounded for a week).
So, what’s all this got to do with today’s college football? Just this: I think in a lot of cases, the players’ parents are at fault for today’s horrific, criminal behavior. These athletes were allowed to run wild at an early age. The parents abdicated authority to the schools or the coaches who, because the kids were gifted, turned a blind eye to their transgressions. The result? The jocks grew up thinking society’s rules and laws simply don’t apply to them.
So, who loses? We all do. The players’ careers can take a nosedive (just think of Maurice Clarett of Ohio State), the school’s images take a black eye (think of the University of Miami a few years back) and, worst of all, our kids are hero-worshipping thugs and degenerates.
I’d like to think things will get better and the next generation of parents will assume more responsibility for child-rearing. But, the daily sports pages tell a different story. As long as a gifted young football player can run the 40 in 4.3 seconds, he’s got an open field to rape and pillage at will.
Oh, and by the way, as was always the case, everything turned out fine for the Beaver. The photographer was able to "mask" Beaver’s funny face and the 8th grade photo came out just fine, thank you.