- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

Things to think about while waiting for Janet Jackson to tear off a critical part of Justin Timberlake’s costume at Super Bowl XXXIX:

• • • •

Seriously, folks, that’s not gonna happen. Perhaps the best thing to come out of Sunday night’s halftime shenanigans is that the TV networks and the NFL will realize not everyone in the audience is 20 years old, or thereabouts.

It’s fine to have something for those who savor the gyrating, grimacing school of music. But shouldn’t children, middle-aged folks and seniors get their innings, too, so to speak?

I don’t know what teams will be playing in the next Super Bowl, but I can guarantee the halftime show won’t be produced by MTV.

• • • •

Best euphemism of the decade so far, contributed by J. Timberlake: “It was a wardrobe malfunction.”

Sure it was — and President Bush has only the deepest affection and respect for all the Democratic presidential candidates.

• • • •

Members of the Bob Davids Washington-Baltimore chapter of SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research) got an earful over the weekend from John Dowd, the special counsel for Major League Baseball whose Dowd Report led to Pete Rose’s lifetime ban from the game.

Some of Dowd’s comments:

• “It’s pathetic how sick Rose was [because of his gambling addiction]. Baseball investigated him 10 years earlier [in the 1970s], although there’s no written record of it. So much for believing he never bet on baseball when he was a player.”

• “Our commission interviewed eight or 10 witnesses who testified he bet on baseball — that was the death blow right there. All 110 of our total witnesses agreed to be interviewed by Pete’s lawyers, and you know how many they interviewed? None.”

• “Lenny Dykstra [of the Mets, who also had a gambling habit] told me, ‘If you hadn’t gotten Rose, I’d be dead today. I stopped gambling when you got Rose.’”

• Of Rose’s unrepentant attitude in his recent book, “My Prison Without Bars”: “The poor sucker just hung himself. The errors in the book are staggering.”

• “If Rose should be reinstated, we’d have 1920 [when the Black Sox scandal broke] all over again. No way.”

And for what it’s worth, my take on Rose: He should never be reinstated or deemed eligible for the Hall of Fame. Make that never, never, never. This much admired superstar went from representing the best in baseball to representing the worst, thereby betraying himself, his fans and the game he purports to love. To my way of thinking, it’s one of the great tragedies in nearly 130 years of our national pastime.

• • • •

I was delighted to see Dean Smith and Terry Holland, two of the best coaches in ACC basketball history, come out strongly against freshman eligibility. At least where the revenue sports of football and basketball are concerned, that rule has been one of the worst evils in college sports for three decades.

Of course, most coaches would disagree with Deano and Terry — they want to play new talent as soon as possible, the better to fend off losses and eventual unemployment. So the decision shouldn’t be left up to them or to college presidents whose institutions benefit from all that TV money. It’s strictly a matter for the much maligned NCAA, which could atone for a lot of sins by reversing its terrible 1973 decision.

Not all athletes attend college primarily for the academics — I hope that revelation doesn’t shock you too badly — but there’s something wrong with the system where a freshman gets to play football before he has attended class.

(Mystified freshman to coach: “What’s a ‘class’?”)

I’m old-fashioned enough to think that college athletes should be real students as well. Besides, giving them a year to fit into the social and academic structure might even help them become more mature and better players. As North Carolina coaching icon Smith noted, “Low graduation rates, high transfer rates and early departures — they’re all indicative of the problems [in men’s basketball].”

Holland, the former Virginia basketball coach and athletic director, acknowledged this and other reforms would encounter stiff opposition. Added Terry: “Most of the time, all of us in athletics hold up our hands and say, ‘We can’t do that!’ We get so invested in the status quo that we begin defending the indefensible.”

The point is, college athletics can do this — stash freshmen on junior varsity teams — and should. It’s never too late to right a wrong.

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