"The devil's greatest feat has been convincing man he does not exist."
-C.S Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Memphis is the spiritual home of the blues, the place where rural blues musicians from the deep south would go to seek their fortune and fame in the wiles of the big city.
One of the most legendary tales is of a young blues musician who went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil in exchange for fame and fortune.
The story is a myth, Americana legend, that Robert Johnson got down on his knees in Rosedale, Mississippi and that the devil claimed his soul at age 27.
The blues that run through Memphis are full of stories about crossroads and "hell hounds on my trail" even in as cosmically weird place as Memphis the deal never works out the way it's seemingly more innocent party expected.
If college basketball had a crossroads, it must have been somewhere near Memphis as well, near the University of Memphis.
This devil is just as adept at making deals he promises. For a time, he delivers on his end of the bargain, but in the end only leaves behind a wake of destruction and mayhem as he moves on to his next soul to claim.
He convinces his victims that it's all about you, the kids, the school, but never himself. He boosts your ego with wins and tales of his loyalty for you.
You'll call him a miracle worker, a messiah, a savior, even a god.
John Calipari is none of the above.
"Vanity, definitely my favorite sin."
-John Milton (Satan), The Devils Advocate
As in the 1997 Pacino flick, the Devil is one smooth operator, a man who understands human lusts, needs, and urges and is more than willing to exploit them for his (not your) gain.
Maybe as a fan, player, or administrator, you've heard about his reputation. Still, you make the deal since what he offers is better than what currently have. You sacrifice your integrity and character for the T.V exposure, the top-flight recruiting classes, the high seeds in the tournament, and the money.
After all, not only has the devil always delivered but nothing bad can be tied to him directly. Forget connecting the dots, because there's no Book of Revelation or Rolling Stones song to do it for you in this case.
Sure, there are stories about his Chief Minion, a man who lives in a Chicago penthouse suite, wears $5,000 suits, and has Lebron James and Bill Clinton on speed dial.
However, you overlook him as well because he is part of the package and just as evil.
You begin to notice the attention that is part of the deal, the fact that your program is nothing more than a hedonistic weigh station.
A virtual D-league for future NBA stars where attending class is optional after Christmas. A place where starting brawls at strip clubs and domestic violence is ignored. A place where the police beat is more relevant than the injury report.
However, you overlook it because it's part of the package.
There are the stories that the devil might be playing hard and fast with the rules of the game. He is amoral when it comes to his players receiving over $25,000 of custom clothes, fur coats, and jewelry.
However, you overlook it because it's a part of package.
He even brings in recruits with little basic command of the English language, yet they are blue chippers. After all, one program's thug is another's "smart but slow-talking southern boy."
Of course, you overlook it because it's part of the package.
Of course, the ones that are jealous point out no matter where he's been, the NCAA has been quick to follow.
Yet, things will be different THIS TIME. Plus, it's part of the package.
The package is what led you to the college basketball crossroads in the first place; it's what made you sign away your programs soul.
When R.C Johnson went down to the crossroads to revive a program that has always overvalued itself, he accepted the package.
He believed the devil when he spoke of loyalty and integrity. He overlooked the bad and took pride in the good. Hell, the poor sap was probably delusional enough to believe he had some hand in the devils success in Memphis.
The devil claimed he would never forsake thee. He claimed he would always be true, then bolted town just ahead of the NCAA hell hounds on his trail.
But have no fear, he wasn't going to steal any of Memphis' recruits—besides DeMarcus Cousins heading to Kentucky.
Now we learn the devil has once again left a path of destruction in his wake, just like he did in Amhurst. All of a sudden, last decade's Marcus Camby is this decade's Derrick Rose.
However, that's the price you pay when you accept the package the devil has to offer.
When Mitch Barnhart went to the crossroads to save his job and cover for his last disastrous hire, he accepted the package as well.
Yet he and every Kentucky fan on the internet will be more than willing to overlook the negative aspects of the package the devil sold them.
Until Mr. Johnson can testify, it's too late.
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