Friday, February 20, 2004



There are so many topics on my mind tonight, so many truths to explore, it makes my head spin. So forgive me if I forsake style for substance, because I've got to hit all the high (low?) points:

As a native Coloradoan, even though I never attended the University of Colorado, I am embarassed and appalled by what's been going on on that campus although unfortunately, I cannot say I am shocked. Six women have now made allogations of sexual misconduct, including incidents of rape by CU football players, head coach Gary Barnett has been placed on "leave" (legal speak for, "he's got one foot in the grave and the paper trail is about to knock him in for good") and a lawsuit charging CU with being in violation of Title IX (for using inappropriate sexual behavior to lure recruits among other things) is underway.

Most galling is Barnett's assertion in an interview that former CU placekicker Kate Hnida (the first woman to play for a Division I football team in 1999 and 2000) was "lousy" and "not respected by her teammates", leading to the suggestion that somehow she deserved to get raped by a fellow player. Barnett did not actually say this, but what does Hnida's abilities as a kicker have to do with her rape complaint in the first place? Typically, the victim is blamed, the perpetrator goes unpunished, the coach gets to keep his job.

There's no easy solution for all of this, but I've got a start--do away with the current system of big time college athletics. Pay the players. Don't offer them scholarhips. Sign them to a two-year contract with the university and give them the option to matriculate there if they so desire, but don't even try to make the "student-athlete" attend class, don't house them on campus and, this is my main point, don't recruit them using sex and binge drinking, let universities whore themselves--I'm sorry, sell themselves--the way professional sports organizations do, on the merits of what that program, that system, that coach can do for the player's NFL or NBA careers, for their future earnings. Take away the edge to be gained from dirty deals and sleaze tactics. Let the only real student-athletes continue to be the tennis players, fencers, wrestlers and gymnasts. Divorce the big money sports from the business of higher education and recognize the athletes for the mercenaries they are.

Of course, none of this will actually happen. Barnett will get fired eventually (why the delay, I'm not exactly sure). But if you don't think this happens at Texas, at Washington, at Michigan, etc., think again. Testosterone + privilege + money + competition = rapes & assaults + coverups. That's an equation no one should have to learn about in college.

(ADDENDUM: Dave R. of Denver had some interesting comments in response to this. Thanks Dave! I'll excerpt the meat of his argument - hopefully he won't mind.

"What we are really "discovering" through this ordeal are two central truths that most people already knew, if they were honest about it:

1) college athletes are recruited based on their athletic ability alone -- not their character, not their intellect, not their selflessness, not their academic aspirations, not their personal decency, not their determination to make a positive contribution to the world. When recruiting a student / ATHLETE, almost all universities completely overlook the character factor in favor of athletic ability; therefore, most people recognize that the college athletes we watch, cheer, and even idolize are quite often spoiled, selfish people with a large sense of entitlement. It's part of why I've stopped watching most Division I college athletics: no matter who wins the game, it's just a bunch of mostly bad people beating another bunch of mostly bad people -- who really cares much about that? Let's face it: many college athletes are just not very good -- and in some cases dangerous -- people.

2) the high school and college athletic "systems" allow and even encourage athletes to behave selfishly and irresponsibly. Athletes are constantly showered with praise and adoration, regardless of their character or humanity. As someone inside the CU athletic department told me this week, "Football players and basketball players are treated like royalty." And as royalty, they are continually pardonned for their selfishness, their viciousness, their meanness, their aggression, their rudeness, their thoughtlessness -- as long as they continue to participate in athletics. Maybe it's economics, maybe it's the lack of true heroism in our society, but good athletes are rewarded and admired in spite of -- or maybe even because of -- their arrogant, aggressive, and destructive behavior. The system recruits and then builds people with some very dangerous values." --Dave R.

Whatever happened to the days when team sports was thought to build character? Maybe the problem is money...maybe it's something else. And isn't it interesting that you don't see problems of this scale in women's athletics?


A Federal appeals court in New Orleans has agreed to hear the former "Jane Roe" argue against the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1972. The Wade side of the "Roe v. Wade" case was the district attorney from Dallas. In an interesting reversal, the "Wade" side or the Dallas D.A., would now be arguing the side that favors safe, legalized abortion--only they do not have plans to send anyone from that office to the hearing. Their legal position is something along the lines of, "then abortion was illegal in Texas, but now it is not. Therefore we have nothing to argue in the hearing, other than to engage in a political debate." Personally, I think you need both sides in a debate. At least, that's what I learned in junior high! Someone has to make the case for choice in this hearing, even if it is a hearing that may have no real legal merit. In the current climate, where the Bush administration and the Christian Taliban are working every day to take away a woman's right to choose, we can't afford to have any argument on the subject that goes unchallenged. Every little thing could be another stone hurled at the glass house of freedom. And eventually, the house will crack and come crashing down, if people let it.

By the way, Roe, who's real name I forget but I'm sure someone will enlighten me, argues that "30 years of evidence of the psychological harm abortions do to women" should lead the Court to reconsider their ruling. It's hard to argue that abortions don't cause psychological harm to women...but much harder to argue that going through with an unwanted pregnancy or getting a back-alley, coat hanger abortion or being stigmatized as an unwed mother unable to take care of her child isn't much more psychologically damaging and even worse, psychologically damaging to the child as well. Always better to have two psychologically damaged souls for the price of one. I guess that's what you call wholesale damage.


On the lighter side (you didn't think there would be one, did you?), in California a Democrat named Richard Groper is running for the State Assembly. Dick Groper. Seriously. First Schwarzeneggar and now this. Imagine if Groper gets elected--that will be at least two gropers in the State House. Or maybe they'll just rename the Capitol, Hooters.

Or maybe Wieners.

W.M.D. M.I.A.

It wouldn't be this blog if I didn't keep you updated on the $1 million sweepstake search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and I'm thrilled to report that--we still haven't found them. Better luck next time.

I'd like to thank Yahoo! News, Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly and the Associated Press for contributing information to this essay. And thanks to John Lennon for suggesting the title. Please Yoko, don't sue...