Friday, July 27, 2007

We are exercising our righteous indignation with Tim Donaghy, Ron Mexico, Barry Bonds and the eternally corrupt Tour de France.

We are in a lather about the stains on our precious competitions, as if in the end we will divorce ourselves from the games, recite the Live Earth pledge, plant a crape myrtle in our front yards and recycle our waste matter on our garden beds, as the illegal aliens in our midst are happy to do at no cost to the consumer.

This, of course, is not going to happen, no matter how many morally depraved scandals rock the sports world.

We will not give up sports, no more than we will give up following the thrilling exploits of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, the Three Panty-lessteers.

If you are looking for what could have been an epiphany, that one moment in life that crystallizes a person”s priorities and leads to a shedding of frivolous interests, it should have been four summers ago, when Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson and then-coach Dave Bliss tried to conceal his role in making illegal payments to the dead player by instructing his coaches and players to claim Dennehy was a drug dealer.

That scandal exposed the underbelly of college basketball in the starkest way imaginable, and four years later, it is a mere footnote, if that, on the big business of college basketball.

The sport is as popular as it ever has been, and its adherents swear to its authenticity, purity and nobility, and rah, rah, rah.

It does not matter whether universities admit vegetables into their programs. It does not matter whether athletic departments are found to have “tutors” who do all the class work of the vegetables.

It does not matter whether boosters are buying the vegetables or whether the vegetables are raping and pillaging the community. It does not matter whether there is grade-fixing, point-shaving, drug usage and rule-breaking galore.

We have Dickie V. to tell us that all is right in college basketball, that Baylor’s dead body was unfortunate and now let’s get on with the game. We have Billy Packer to tell us which players are showing fatigue, when a timeout is necessary and how poor shot selection is a problem that transcends race, religion and creed.

We have others who swear by the high number of floor burns in college basketball, the single tear running down the face of an anorexic cheerleader and spirited band members in face paint pumping up the do-or-die sense in an arena.

Supporters of college basketball say their game is fraught with meaning, purpose and passion, while ignoring the endemic ills and hypocrisies of the system. And this rot is far more entrenched in major college athletics than anything that can be found at the professional level.

Mexico might be a bad guy and a poor reflection on the NFL, but in no way does dogfighting represent the culture of the NFL.

But each scandal in major college athletics usually is a product of the perverse system.

Each scandal routinely involves a coaching staff breaking the rules to procure and maintain the eligibility of athletes who no more belong in a classroom than the pit bulls in the Mexico mess.

The dogfighting case against Mexico is the first of its kind for the NFL.

Observers might have imagined all sorts of trouble for Mexico — a Lohan-Mexico hookup that goes bad in the wee hours — but dogfighting would not have been on the list.

As far as anyone knows, the crooked referee before the NBA is a first as well.

Bonds, fair or not, is the face of the steroids era in baseball that has not played itself out yet, if it ever will.

His undertaking reveals anew how athletes are forever looking for an edge, and the arbitrary line between right and wrong can become sufficiently gray in the pursuit of greatness.

That never will change, as the Tour de France is forever revealing.

Let”s face it. We may be repulsed by Donaghy, Mexico and Bonds, we may be frothing at the mouth, with eyes bulging out, but we aren”t about to give up our games out of principle.

We like to make that threat, especially in times of labor-management impasses, but we never mean it.

We always come back, squeezing our big, fat rear ends into our rapidly shrinking easy chairs to get our fix from game analysts who point out which player has the best presence of mind.

This summer has come to be the perfect storm of our three leading team sports, but none of it will erode the long-term profitability of each endeavor.

We do not want a fixed game or a dog slammed to its death or a slugger whose head is the size of an award-winning pumpkin at the county fair.

But all of that is nothing compared to the decomposing corpse and dirtbag coach in Waco, Texas, and that sickening scandal that never touched college basketball, never fazed it, never set it back at all.

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