Something I've realized this summer is that sports are eternal, and everything else is transitory. No matter how lame or inconsequential something is, if it happened to my favorite sports team or my favorite sports team's chief rival, I've basically got that stuff tattooed on my body, Memento-style. I remember exactly who Jonathan Skeete is, even though there is literally no reason for me to. That piece of information is sitting in my brain, taking up space that could be going to things like "how to save a drowning child" or "my ATM pin number."
Experiment time: which do you remember more vividly, your first kiss, or the last time Ohio State lost to Purdue? Follow up question: are you more angry about that loss than you are happy about that kiss?
If you answered "my first kiss" and "no," congratulations! You are a functioning member of society! If not, condolences! You are a sports fan.
The reason why this is, is because of two things: one, the intensity of devotion that we have to sports can admittedly get a little ridiculous (also it's probably pretty unlikely that you're still with the person you shared your first kiss with). But, more importantly, it's also a result of the fact that in sports, fans and the media tend to recycle stories and issues until they are well past their shelf life.
ESPN has made this their entire corporate strategy, sustaining narratives for as long as they can, until interest wanes and they move on to the Next Big Thing. What makes it worse is that as the self proclaimed Worldwide Leader, other sports outlets tend to follow suit. It's a feedback loop of inanity, and I think it's time we realized that as badly we want this thing to be over with, it's not going to be. Ever.
"You want a prediction about the weather, you're asking the wrong Phil. I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life."
What helps is that there are a lot of people who don't really want to see it over with. Michigan fans are obviously content to revel in schadenfreude for as long as they possibly can, but so are about 95% of the rest of college football fans. Here's a question from a college football mailbag in the Orlando Sentinel:
With all the trouble Ohio State has been in with the NCAA since the start, in exclusively since the 2000 season and the latest with Coach Tressel knowing about the in eligible players’ issues; why didn’t the NCAA give them the “death penalty?”
And the response from Matt Murschel:
In Ohio State’s case – or at least what the school is indicating – most of the guilt falls on the head of former coach Jim Tressel for looking the other way. However, if the school has received another letter from the NCAA like is being reported, I think the school has to hope that the NCAA will hand down a similar punishment as USC ... if the problem is rampant and goes deep into the program, look out.
Or, to put it more succinctly, "Will OSU get the death penalty?" "Maybe!"
No school is ever going to get the death penalty ever again. SMU's program deserved the punishment that it got, but so did about five other teams in and around Texas at that time. SMU was utterly destroyed by NCAA sanctions, and they've never recovered. It's not a step the NCAA is going to take unless it turns out that OSU was literally a modern day Caligula's court, with Jim Tressel lounging nude on a waterbed filled with orphan's tears and presiding over a gladiator-style fight to the death between a drunken Jim Bollman and players who forget to wear ties on gameday.
Murschel knows it's a stupid question; he also knows that people will read his column because of it. Again, it doesn't matter how laughable the idea of OSU getting the death penalty is, it just matters that the idea of it will get people to pay attention to the story.
Dennis Dodd. Dodd is actually kind of brilliant here because he's trying to pre-empt the outrage that you'll probably see from everyone else this weekend by releasing a column to that effect ahead of the actual NCAA hearing. The whole thing is gold, but there are two segments that I absolutely love:
Remember, it's not necessarily what you hear or read, it's what you can prove.
In the context of the article, this is used as a pejorative. GOD FORBID that the NCAA has to use proven facts when handing down penalties. What kind of world do we live in where unsubstantiated rumor isn't allowed to form the basis for punishment? I fear for the future of our children, stuck in this terrifying dystopian society of "facts" and "proof." DAMN YOU, FIFTH AMENDMENT!
Our little group of five media members hammered "State University" (ed- hypothetical OSU) and Smith (hypothetical Jim Tressel), applying a postseason ban and removing scholarships. We also gave Coach Smith a show-cause order, which basically means he couldn't work at an NCAA member institution for a period of years.
"Then we directed a tactical nuclear airstike on Columbus, Ohio. Then we gave everyone in the CBS offices a pony. Then we proclaimed it to be Pizza Day! Everyone had a pizza party. Yaaay! The end."
This is basically Dodd pouting and saying that if he were in charge, it'd be done the RIGHT WAY. Which brings us to Pat Forde. Same deal, only far more self-congratulation. We've already gone over the article here at 11W, but again, it's ESPN saying that due to their brave reporting (reporting that, let's be honest, pretty much makes Walter Cronkite in Vietnam look like crap) on the situation, the NCAA investigation continues.
Which it does! Of course it does. And even when it's over, fans from other teams and the media will insist that it isn't. Because that's how sports work; we all want the Perpetual Hate Machine to target our rivals, and when you're running the coaster it can be fun to watch. But when you're strapped in and can't get off, you can only hope that the guy in front of you doesn't throw up.