State of Play: Why the NFLPA Is Right and Ohio State Is Wrong

kellyContributor IIMarch 10, 2011

For Lent, I’m giving up the NFL and college football.

I must confess (though fortunately I don’t have to do so in a Philadelphia parish) that I feel a little guilty about my decision. Although I’m addicted to football, the recent behavior by gentlemen affiliated with both games has been so appalling that it doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice.

Potato chips would have been a more worthy adversary.

NFL owners want the players to agree to spend their retirements incapacitated, popping pain pills and wondering if they took one too many hits in an expanded 18-game season, possibly damaging their brains in the process.

They want a larger share of the NFL’s $9 billion dollar pie up front, though in most cases it's hard to understand how they deserve it.

Anyone can sit in a luxury box and clap (Jerry Jones is my favorite). Or pretend he’s at fantasy camp (did you see Woody Johnson on Hard Knocks?). Or make crappy personnel decisions (all of them, but Al Davis and Dan Snyder really excel).

Or accept public money to build a more comfortable luxury box for himself and then price the general public out of the stadiums they helped pay for and—adding insult to injury—prevent them from watching their teams play on television. All of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' games were blacked out last year. I’m sure the average ticket price of $94 had nothing to do with the lack of fannies in the seats.

Talk about March Madness.

The college game isn’t any better these days. The latest scandal involves a cover-up of NCAA violations by the Ohio State head coach, Jim Tressel, aka The Vest.

An attorney alerted Tressel in April of last year of possible NCAA violations involving the sale of memorabilia by two of his players to the owner of a tattoo parlor who was part of a federal drug investigation.

Tressel kept the allegations close to his vest (sorry, I couldn’t resist), failing to report the infractions to the school’s compliance office and lying about having any prior knowledge of them when asked by school officials investigating the matter in December.

Tressel fessed up only after a damaging email surfaced proving he lied. Meanwhile, his employer, The Ohio State University, “self-reported” the violation to the NCAA following a report by Yahoo! Sports. This is who is educating America’s young people?

For his misdeeds, Tressel got slapped with a lousy two-game suspension—for games against Akron and Toledo—and a $250,000 fine, or six percent of his yearly salary. Meanwhile, the five players who were discovered to have sold memorabilia in violation of NCAA rules will serve a five-game suspension this fall. All were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl in January after lobbying by the bowl and the Big Ten Commissioner.

What a joke.

College football is full of them these days.

Cam Newton claims he had no idea his father was shopping him around to the highest bidder. If you believe that, I have a laptop I’d like to sell you.

Oregon paid a one-man “recruiting service” $25,000 to sign a player. I mean, receive unspecified recruiting services from a man the player's mom thought was a trainer. 

North Carolina players had improper contact with agents.

Football players from coast to coast have been arrested for serious crimes, including domestic violence, substance abuse and assault.

Yet USC is the only one to suffer a loss of scholarships, a bowl ban and probation because of evidence that one player cheated six years ago.

Higher education indeed.

One could argue that college athletes should be allowed to benefit financially from their talents, particularly since a recent study revealed that the average “full” athletic scholarship fell $3,000 short of need per year. For the time being that’s against the rules, and everyone knows it.

The big payday is supposed to come when (if) they make it to the pros. Now that’s in jeopardy, though obviously not forever, because of the NFL labor strife.

There’s no question that professional football players make bank, even if they’re making the league minimum.

But doesn’t it seem like everyone’s making money off football players—collegiate and pro—at their expense?

And what about the fans? How much money are we supposed to shell out just to root for our teams?

I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to Lent with so much enthusiasm.