Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times sure seems to think so. He further suggests that anyone who isn’t horrified by the “fraudulent test score” allegations — in addition to the fresh allegations that a grade was changed on his high school transcript — can go “live in your world of beer-can-on-the-belly sports relativism.”
Personally, I think Mr. Telander needs to get off his high horse.
I’m not saying that cheating is okay. Far from it. I want this investigation to run its course until all the facts are known. Furthermore, I want the guilty parties to be punished in accordance with whatever rules and laws are used to govern these activities, and to have steps taken to reduce the likelihood that something like this can happen again.
Notice how I said “reduce the likelihood” rather than “eliminate forever”? Because cheating in its many, many forms will go on forever in amateur sports…and professional sports for that matter. It happens in small ways (such as, say, flopping) and it happens on far grander scales (as with this cheating scandal). It happens everywhere, all the time. Telander regards this incident as a case of “hypocrisy revealed.” But to me, the true hypocrisy comes from the fact that our society — Telanader included — only jumps to action and outrage when somebody is caught. Derrick Rose, Simeon High, the University of Memphis…they are not the disease, they are symptoms.
I mentioned yesterday that I roomed with a varsity basketball player in college. This guy was a redshirt freshman, a non-player, and you would not believe the number of violations I was witness to during that one semester. Alumni and boosters gave him money and gifts. He was caught stealing (cash, CDs, a security code used for long distance calls, etc.) from other students but got a slap on the wrist. He had a small cadre of people doing his homework for him. By midterm, he had attended maybe handful of classes, so most of his professors failed him due to lack of attendance and kicked him out of their classes. A few calls from an assistant coach later and he was back in every class with a “C” so long as he attended “most” of the rest of his classes and turned in his assignments on time.
I could provide more examples, but you get the idea. Mind you, these allowances were made for a non-player, so you can only imagine what kind of treatment the stars get. I would guess that if someone like Telander devoted himself to some serious and stubborn investigative journalism, he could uncover countless cases of violations both great and small throughout the NCAA. It would literally be like shooting fish in a barrel. Maybe then the American public would be able to truly appreciate the scope of the problem. Maybe then we’d be moved to make real changes to the system, which is corrupt and broken.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen, though. It’s much easier to express moral outrage when someone like Derrick Rose gets caught for having cheated on a college entry exam or Barry Bonds gets outed for steroid use. That’s when Joe Public gets to prove how fine and upstanding he is while decrying others for abusing honesty and righteousness.
But guess what? We’re all guilty. We turn a blind eye to the constant inequities of life every day while simultaneously fighting our way to the top of the dogpile covering the few who actually get caught for their wrongdoing. Giving the change in your pocket to a derelict or bringing in a few cans of soup for your company food drive does not mean you’re fighting the homelessness problem. And trying to decimate Derrick Rose for cheating his way into college doesn’t mean you’re waging a war against corruption in the NCAA.
Be upset. Be disappointed. Hope that this mess can be cleaned up and corrected as quickly as possible. But the next time you drive your car in excess of the speed limit or get undercharged at the grocery store without going back to pay the remainder of what you owe, try to remember that even the best of us break the rules. And if you’re not really and truly part of the solution, chances are you’re part of the problem.
The passivity of the general public is what allows the NCAA to sit back and allow these things to happen. The NCAA always seems to be a step behind in sniffing these things out, and even then they still end up missing an awful lot. It’s terrible that Rose and some of his buddies cheated, but it’s just as terrible if not moreso that a faulty system exists that encourages and passively allows such things to occur over and over.
There is a larger system at work here, and it needs to be changed.