- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It turns out Kelvin Sampson has a cell phone addiction.

This puts him in the company of all too many Americans who cannot take 10 steps without pulling out their cell phones to see who possibly has sent them a text message.

These poor souls are controlled by their gadgetry, and it is the unfortunate who spend face time with the high-tech afflicted.

These poor souls never have received a phone call they would not accept in the most inappropriate situations. That could be during the middle of dinner with friends. Or that could be after the person is struck by an automobile, only to keep yapping into the contraption as emergency workers check the person’s vital signs.

You see these sad figures all across the city, and you can imagine Sampson is one of them, feverishly clutching his cell phone as he prepares to make yet another illegal recruiting call to a pimple-faced hot shot.

Sampson cannot help it. He has descended into a destructive madness that strips victims of the capacity to hold conversations with the real, live humans before them. This is what technology has wrought in the 21st century.

These zombies no longer actively participate in life, because there is always another cell phone call to answer or make, another e-mail to read or write and the 14,233rd song to download on an iPod.

Indiana University handed Sampson a $750,000 parting gift, which, hopefully, he will use to check himself into Hazelden to get the medical treatment he so desperately needs.

This is not the first time Sampson’s addiction has manifested itself.

Between 2000 and 2004, when he was the coach at Oklahoma, the NCAA found that he had made 577 calls to prospective recruits in violation of the rules.

This investigation was concluded two months after Sampson had been hired by Indiana in 2006. Alas, Sampson was unable to reform himself and insisted to the bitter end that he had done nothing wrong, so far as he knows, as he understands it.

His refusal to acknowledge he has a problem is hardly a shock.

We have become inured to the liars, cheats and scoundrels who lurk in our games.

They devise the most implausible stories in an attempt to save their tattered reputations, and Roger Clemens is hardly the worst of them, only the most recent.

Floyd Landis, the disgraced Tour de France cyclist, issued a new story each day after he was found to have used performance-enhancing substances. His daily utterances soon coalesced into a parody, as if put together by David Letterman’s gag writers coming up with their top 10 list.

You cannot even trust the louts who deny with conviction.

Rafael Palmeiro had “never used steroids, period,” only Viagra, until he tested positive for steroids a few months after his riveting testimony on Capitol Hill in 2005.

This is the game, and what a trite game it is.

Sampson eventually will fade from the scene and perhaps clean up his act enough to receive a talking-head gig with ESPN, assuming he is capable of leaving his cell phone off the studio set.

The high-tech addicted do deserve our sympathy on some level.

They are easy targets because of their obliviousness to the environment around them.

Muggers easily strip them of their wallets and purses, and these self-made victims never know otherwise because of the cell phone that is surgically attached to their ears.

And the addicted leave themselves open to blackmail because they discuss the most intimate details of their lives around strangers.

Seriously, no one really needs to know about your yeast infection.

Perhaps Sampson’s scandalous end could have been avoided if the NCAA had sent a copy of the rules to him by text message.

That is usually the best way to reach these forlorn souls.

You start with a heartfelt text message that reads: “How r u today? :)”

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