- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Jeremy Bloom remains ever resistant to the indentured servitude of the NCAA.

Bloom is the college football player at Colorado who has been required to subdue his capitalistic yearnings in freestyle skiing the last two seasons.

His sentence crystallizes one of the sacred hypocrisies of our times, the ill-defined tug between amateur and professional.

Bloom, like most Americans, is not partial to starving, figuring it serves no useful purpose in a business that corrupts the young and old alike. His sacrifice has been unnecessary.

The sanctity of the games remains an amusing notion of the NCAA, considering the dead body in Waco, Texas, and the actions of the former basketball coach there.

All the usual pieties were expressed around the dead body before the priority of the business beckoned anew.

Bloom is an itty-bitty challenge before the NCAA, hardly worrisome in the vicinity of the thug element that pretends to adhere to the illusion of academics.

Bloom has tried to work within the system, appealing to the common decency of the lords of the games. The attempt has been met with the usual chin-stroking deliberation, as if the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Bloom, in believing in the rightness of his battle, has decided to force the hand of the NCAA, with the decision to pursue skiing endorsements while fighting to maintain his spot on the Colorado football roster. He is, in effect, looking for mercy from those who rule with an obfuscated fist.

The NCAA could have settled the issue long ago, in Bloom’s favor, if only the bureaucratic monster had not relinquished its humanity to television contracts and corporate sponsors.

The big business of football and basketball is increasingly hard to stomach, seemingly determined to define itself down to the lowest entertainment form.

The brain-dead sweat in celebration of the preening peacocks, too many of whom exist in a vacuum of conceit. The nausea usually passes after a long shower.

The enablers in the stands rarely object to the pollutants that waft above these dens of inequities. The next scandal is usually no worse than the last, and usually forgotten amid the next call to reform.

The clarity of the Bloom case has been lost in this sense-dulling, upside-down environment. He is one for the ancient philosophers, a two-sport rarity, and a rarity still in the sports of football and skiing.

Bloom’s mistake is to be bumping up against one of the many mind-numbing technicalities of the NCAA, in this case a rule that denies a serf from endorsing a product based on his athletic ability.

The amateur-professional area is awfully gray, if you care to notice those two-sport athletes who play in both worlds. That list is lengthy enough, often joined in the traditional union of football and baseball.

Chris Weinke, to name one former member, received a $400,000 signing bonus in baseball before he won the Heisman Trophy at Florida State. No one questioned his so-called amateur standing.

As an Olympic skier, Bloom lacks the economic cover of a professional sports league. His income potential, estimated to be well into six figures, is derived from companies seeking to be affiliated with a fashionable face.

The nebulous distinction between Bloom and Weinke has baffled the addled minds of the NCAA. A small measure of common sense is beyond their rule-suffocating capacity.

Its fear of Bloom is imaginary, if fear contributes to its paralysis.

The money-making operations of the NCAA are impervious to the worst qualities of the human condition.

The NCAA has been burdened with the dead body in Waco, the dead booster at Michigan, the cheaters at Georgia and the welder at St. Bonaventure, to cite a few of the recent lowlights in college athletics.

Yet the NCAA is forever unnerved by the prospect of Bloom being compensated to wear this or that clothing item.

If that ever happens, then the apocalyptic revelation apparently will be before the NCAA.

There will be no turning back to a purer time, laughable as that contention is, and the precious games as we know them will cease to function.

The NCAA ought to embrace Bloom’s cause, the contrived rule be darned.

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