People in my state, North Carolina, read daily about the “UNC ATHLETIC SCANDAL”. lots of opinions and pretty heated topic because of the importance of sports in our area. Particularly college Men’s Basketball. What to do about this conundrum? Pretty tough issues involved. “…once the *X##@ is out of the bull!”–Willie Nelson.
There are a lot of similarities between this an the immigration issue in America. Like kudzu, the problems are everywhere and growing. Not to minimize the Chapel Hill problems, but this not theirs alone: “I’m just the leper with the most fingers left.” Lots of staff meetings in college and universities (Athletic Directors, Academic Advisors, Coaches, etc.). NOTE: CEO AND TRUSTEES TOO!
Is it time for some straight talk. Stout action. What is this really about? Sports? Money? Ego? Education? RACE? All of the above and maybe more, much more? Remember all the people who have gotten in trouble talking about race in America (Jimmy “the Greek” for example?) Yet how do we deal with the “…elephant in the room”? In 2007 I wrote PLAY IS WHERE LIFE IS. I braved the following comment that may have been prescient:
“Much has been written about the “Black Athlete”. There is no question in my mind about the talent level of these athletes. Coming from the the South and being a minister’s son there was little question, early on about God. Certainly, in my mind he was male, white and looked a whole lot like Santa Claus. Surely too, he was lovable, kind, and simply a good “supreme being”. After watching sports in America the last forty years my guess about God’s nature is more Machiavellian. After watching America make a religion out of sports, while at the same time mistreating the black population so badly, I picture God’s role differently. My guess is we’ve put so much emphasis on sport He’s peeved. Think not? Watch where parents are at 11:00 am on Sundays if their child is in a soccer match. Hmm? Did God say “I’ll give these fanatics a dilemma!” He then put this glorious athletic talent in many of the Black population, and now He’s “up there” giggling at what America is doing with sports. Please don’t get me wrong. The Black athletes have paid their dues in practice, injury, and sweat just like anyone. Probably more so. Integration caused a lot of headaches in the alignment of conferences, etc. Who plays and who you play, is important, and alignment turned things upside down.
I do believe Proposition 48 (the academic guidelines for collegiate eligibility) yielded a lot of good. I wonder about the S.A.T and fairness, but it is a “hard” number. My guess is the best barometer for academic success is the athlete’s class rank. With exceptions, most of those who could achieve class rank had enough ability to succeed. Some can’t spell S.A.T. Some people are aberrant bastards who have no business in higher education. It always irked me to know that he beauty,education, and joy of collegiate sports was often wasted on an “athlete” who had no intention of benefiting from the true value of Sports in Education.”
David Epstein’s book, THE SPORT GENE, is truly informative. True research on nature vs. nurture in the development of elite athletes. I recommend it to anyone interested in sports and related research. Just very limited few comments from THE SPORT GENE:
“The broad truth is that nature and nurture are so interlaced in any realm of athletic performance that the answer is always: it’s both”.
“No one can argue that there was selection of the fittest slave.” (Yannis Pitsiladis)
“I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.” (Michael Johnson, sprinter)
“Here’s the conclusion of Peter Matthews, the track-and-field statistician who compiled those numbers:”In these days of computer games, sedentary pursuits, and driving our children to school—It is the ‘hungry’ fighter or the poor peasant who has the endurance background, and the incentive to work on it, who makes the top distance runner.”
The News and Observer has jumped all over the “Carolina Scandal”. Who knows what will come down as truth. One obvious fact is race as an issue is in bold print.
Comments from the public on an N & O article entitled UNC SCANDAL, with literacy advocate, Mary Carey, posing the blunt question “…why do we fail to teach so many black males how to read?” (Nov.10, 2014).
Samples of public comments:
…”why couldn’t these athletes maintain eligibility through standard classes?” The answer; because we as a state and as a nation don’t teach young black males how to read.”
“I can tell you first hand that the reasons many of them are struggling readers are very complex. Many of them come from families of very weak readers who don’t have the time, energy or resources to reinforce the first thing that is happening at school. …This is a cultural problem as much as it is an educational problem. “It is complicated and hard to watch and as most kids move on and those who have never valued reading lag and then get stuck behind it is heart breaking.”
“I taught MY children how to read. My children taught THEIR children how to read. It takes parents to learn to read—parents who read to their children. Kindergarten is almost too late, if the home is not a center of learning.”
“Their communities are failing them for telling them that getting an education is pointless.”
“Give the parents a livable wage so they won’t have to work two or three full time jobs, and they might be able to devote some time to their kids education. And stronger families overall, including present fathers, are also critical.”
If we really want solve or better the issue, then “…let us not talk falsely, the hour is getting late.” The fact that nature and nurture, right or wrong or a combination of both, have produced some truly marvelous black American athletes is obvious and a truth. By the same token it is immoral not to recognize and take significant responsibility for the same kind of results the sins of slavery have yielded.
Solution? No easy answers here. I once had to dig up a septic tank with a shovel. My “supervisor” said “…just keep pecking away at it.”
Another observation came from coaching tennis. Tons of internationals. Doesn’t take long to realize there are good and bad of all denominations. Swedes,Dutch,American, black,white, men, women, gay or straight, young or old. People should be judged on their individual merit.
M.L. Carr of Boston Celtics fame, was recently inducted into the NORTH CAROLINA SPORTS HALL OF FAME. Inductees and their spouses opened ceremonies with an entering parade. Some were shocked to see M.L. being accompanied by a male? His acceptance explained that the man with him, a white man, had taken taken a young black Wallace N.C. youngster with no ties, and mentored him all the way to hall of fame status. Carr added information about his current efforts his foundation offers to at risk kids. Maybe one at a time is one way.
I buy any copy of DAYS OF GRACE by Arthur Ashe I can find. Eventually I find a young African American to give it to. Bill Cosby is another leader. listen to leaders. Bob Dylan looking back,”…I would be kinder.” Simple. I found local examples. Leo Barker coached with us briefly at ELON. Coach Barker was an all pro linebacker with the super bowl Cincinnati Bengals. A black Panamanian and one of 16 siblings he was impressive any number of ways. Not long after his first practice I overheard one of our black standouts comment, “…Coach Leo, he doesn’t go for that victimology crap.
My friend and great coach Henry Trevathan speaks truth. He made have issued our fundamental challenge recently in a private conversation: “Tom,it is useless to try anything until families start to function again.”
Malcom Gladwell says reading lovingly to every child is indispensable. Without this parental effort failure is imminent.
My golfing buddy, Jimmy Smith, is one of eleven. What would your Dad do if you or your siblings were accused of wrong doing? I asked. “We had to tell him the whole truth and pledge not to do it again. Still had to take his punishment, but truth yielded some lesser sentence. Lying was hell to pay.”
How about Amnesty for College Athletics. The deafening silence out there now surrounds the arena. Nobody telling Daddy the truth? Hoping he doesn’t find out about me?
How about we all fess up, take the medicine and start clean. Put admissions back in charge of admission. No ticky,no laundry! Best first move? Stop admitting the thugs of any kind, no matter how good they are. They take up valuable slots that good kids will fill. Most all who replace the thugs will be black. The smart ones are good too!
Maybe college sports programs are not alone. Some others may need a cleansing moment. The business world, the catholic church, religion, politics….AMNESTY FOR AMERICA.