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Is it really all about how you play the game?

By By Stan Torgerson
May 9, 2002
My mother wouldn't like this column. She belonged to the "Always say something nice" school and I'm having trouble doing that when I think about the world of sports these days.
We've gotten all out of whack. Winning and money. Money and winning. There doesn't seem to be anything else in the news. That makes it a tough time for an idealist who still believes in the purity of amateurism or the element of may the best man win.
Mamma, I'm sorry but there don't seem to be a lot of nice things to say.
Where is the late and great sports writer Grantland Rice when you need him? "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." He wrote that.
Dreamer.
If it doesn't matter whether you win or lose why have Tennessee and LSU added their name to a list which already had Alabama and Kentucky at the top of the page?
Ah, yes. The Vols and the Tigers are merely suspects at this point in time. The fact that a newspaper in Mobile has seen checks for $4,500 that were paid, sorry, allegedly were paid to Tee Martin when he was quarterbacking Tennessee to a national championship has not yet been provenor has it?
So why did LSU's chancellor, athletics director, associate athletics director for NCAA compliance and the school's attorney go to Indianapolis this week to meet with NCAA officials regarding charges of academic fraud? Nothing really serious, you understand. Just favorable academic treatment to athletes, such as tutors providing too much help for those athletes, allowing them to take unsupervised tests at the academic center and those same athletes asking the center's employees to type papers for free.
It wasn't as if they'd held up a bank, booked bets on sports events or sold drugs on campus.It was just taking a few shortcuts to remain eligible and, as you know, boys will be boys. Besides, the school needed their muscle, not their brains.
Of course, in their own way they were actually helping the NCAA. There were 25 bowl games that needed two teams each and since you had to win six out of eleven to qualify, LSU was just helping fill a slot.
Now there are 28 games to fill the bowls since the NCAA just recently decided to add three more. They'd better not look too closely at those academic counselors or they may find only one qualifying team still left when they need two.
As for the proliferation of those end-of-the-year bowl games in honor of wonderful 6-5 records, the public has to have something to do over the holidays and what better than watching Idaho play McNeese State on TV. And since the economy is in the toilet, football games are an economic boost because there are all these companies with advertising dollars who need to find some place to put them in circulation. George Bush will be pleased.
Speaking of helping the economy, think of what a nice thing Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson are doing for America. They've sold 19,000 tickets for their upcoming fight in Memphis at an average of $1,200 per ticket and generated $23 million in the process, part of which will go to the people who sell programs or peanuts or cold beer as well as the employees of the closed circuit network which will broadcast the fight for a paltry $54.95 per subscriber. What really warms the cockles of your heart is that Lewis and Tyson are bringing all this prosperity to the needy for a mere $20 million dollars each, give or take. How warm and loving of your fellow man can you get?
It must be the same motivation that caused the owner of the Charlotte Hornets to take his team to New Orleans just because the people of his fair city refused to build him a new coliseum. In the process they convinced the people of Louisiana what a good deal it is to spend millions of taxpayer money just to make certain the owner is financially successfuland happy. Now that's compassion.
If Grantland Rice was by some magic able to read the sports section these days he would indeed be spinning in his grave.
As for my late mother, after this column I would expect to see her finger shaking under my nose and hear the once familiar words, "Stanley, you've been a bad boy."
Ma, I just couldn't help it.

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