The Starcat Wades Into College Athletics

By DJ Byrnes on February 23, 2012 at 3:10p
RT @mental_floss: In 1999, the U.S. government paid the Zapruder family $16 million for the film of JFK's assassination.The Starcat has never met a problem she couldn't fix.

Last Christmas Eve, I was at the same place I'd been the last four Christmas Eves: The OK Cafe. Destination Marion, Ohio, "the Doke" which is one of America's premiere watering holes. (It's also probably the only cafe in the world which serves Bud Ice bottles.) Remember now, this was 2011, so don't judge me when I say this story begins with me on the patio of the OK Cafe, smoking a Newport. (2011's were just way different back then, tobacco use was cool. You kids today wouldn't understand, especially with your androgynous phones these days and all.)

There I was, smoking with a friend and thinking about how blessed I was to be associated with the City of Kings -- when a mystical long-haired cat strolled up to my friend and I. It looked rather mangy and was certainly cold and hungry, but I have always adored felines, so I was more than welcome to offer it a hit of my 'Port, which the cat, much to my surprise, declined.

I could tell the cat was more-than-likely homeless, and my heart broke into a thousand pieces as I had to shut the door behind me as I walked back into the dimly lit bar. "Damn," I lamented when I was back over my Jack-on-the-rocks. "I should have taken that cat. It was a beast." 

Twenty minutes later, and the throes of petty nicotine addictions forced my friend and I back into the elements. There, the cat came trotting back up to me, as if it had been waiting for me its entire life. After inspecting the wild beast and determining it had a fresh laceration on its chest, an upper repertory infection and was probably in the streets... I decided my shanty in Columbus needed the vigilance only a well-trained feline can bring. 

While other masters put robes of bread on their cats, I have always had a much more disciplined approach. Not to boast, but I have churned out my fair share of gato assassins. After months of round-the-clock training in my fabled feline dojo, "The Starcat" as the other elders have dubbed her, had finally learned Mandarin. Since then, The Starcat has solved many life problems of mine since she sauntered into my life ... most recently allowing me to make eye contact with a (human) girl (in real life). After that five second interval (and before my brain fired its awkward juices and paralyzed me for the next 20 minutes), I realized the Starcat's problem-solving prowess.

My next question was the same any man would have asked in my shoes then, "Does the Starcat hold a solution to college athletics reform?"

"What am I doing, Starcat? Am I not simply projecting my cat-laden fantasies onto an article penned by's Spencer Hall on Monday?"

Don't be hard on yourself, DJ. It would probably surprise a lot of people to realize you were thinking this far in advance, but I supplanted the idea for this column into your mind during your weekly shower last Friday. Besides, weren't you resurrecting President Harding last fall before President Jackson threw in his two cents? Though, the man does have superior photoship skills to you. Where does he find the time if I'm to believe he takes at least seven showers a week? Who has that kind of time?

"Careful, Starcat. The slightest mention of the 29th and Most Hated On President of the United States could send me on a tangent and derail this entire operation." 

*Starcat nods sagely without looking up from her iPad.*

RT @dril: mail 1000 envelopes addressed to "The Desert" and watch endless waves of government pawns march to their death #ANARCHY2012 #sandThe Starcat is an avid reader and media-devourer.

"Starcat, some commenters on this website are sick of my poorly written rants against the NCAA power-structure. 'Well, what are the solutions?' some of them ask. I know there is a solution in here which can work for everybody. Enlighten me."

Humans go to college to learn things, because unlike us cats, they are born without knowledge of the inner-workings of our galaxies. Since colleges seem so willing to pimp their football teams of 18-22 year olds in the name of profit, they should be allowed to set up football academies for 14-18 year old athletes. 

In some parts of the world, 7-year olds are signed by professional clubs and relocated (with their family) to the opposite hemisphere. I doubt America is ready for this, but surely there would be enough talented football prospects in just central Ohio alone to supply enough bodies for Ohio State's fictional high school/football academy. And since Ohio State is a self-proclaimed institution of higher learning, wouldn't the appointed staff at this fictional academy be vastly superior the education a lot of these kids are getting anyway?  (Your public school system is in shambles, after all.)

These academies would offer a much more structured environment. They would go to school for half the day and then train the other half. Instead of pristine human specimens like Terrelle Pryor shitting on inferiorly talented kids for four years, an academy structure would allow him to be surrounded by talented equals. 

It would also allow prospects the coaching they need to be successful at the next level. Imagine if Terrelle Pryor had Archie Manning for his dad and wasn't the sun of a football galaxy in shitty western Pennsylvania, he might have understood the need to be able to read defenses before he ended up as a 3rd string quarterback in a talent abyss like Oakland.  Swollen egos and sports will always go hand in hand, but education is the best anecdote for the swollen head. Mention this solution anytime a human rants against "the entitlement" of today's athletes.

"Starcat, I want the players paid. Damnit, they are simply modern day gladiators doing unknown damage to their body for our sheer entertainment because we all lead empty, shallow lives."

There you go again, DJ, projecting yourself onto society as a whole. Yet, you are right, your human doctors are only starting to grasp the incalculable bodily damage done on even a routine play. It's as your former roommate in Montana told you a day after a game in which he played 20 plays and could hardly walk, "It may look like a routine play, but yo, that's still a 300 lbs. dude falling on my ass."

College degrees in the 21st century become more worthless by the day, and it's especially perturbing since a lot of institutions will lower their admissions standards if the applicant is really fast or can jump really high. Not everyone is cut out for academic success, as you're certainly aware of, so players should certainly have the option to take whatever the cash-value of their said scholarship is said to be.

On top of that, why shouldn't student athletes be allowed to retain agents? Allow them to retain business professionals, and allow student-athletes to market themselves considering how fleeting some of their successes will be. By the way, what is wrong with taking money from a man in exchange for signing your signature on a football, especially when they were the ones who made that signature worth anything in the first place? (Remember, it was Terrelle Pryor's hard-work which allowed him to chose Ohio State, not the other way around.) As for jersey sales, players should definitely get residuals on those.

"What's your take on the Danny O'Brien situation with Maryland?"

Pathetic. I agreed with your take last week (coicidentally because I wrote it). If these big-named institutions are against guaranteed, four-year scholarship offers, then student-athletes should be allowed to leave (or re-sign) without any penalty on their eligibility. It's not as if transferring colleges is an easy task, something you could also attest to. Conversely, schools could decline to resign a player, giving elite college coaches their desired roster flexibility. This way, the sword cuts both ways.

*shows a video of sad Stephon Diggs watching Jordan Hall score touchdowns from his dorm-room in Maryland* He will agree with this all very soon.

"Just so we're clear, there are going to be people who disagree with you simply because you can't speak English. And you're a cat."

That's fine. The Illuminati would prefer it that way. *sips tea*

"Playoffs, Starcat?"

They're coming, just hold your horses. These are large, multi-billion dollar institutions. I'm sure their apology letter to the 25-year old internet blogger regarding their lack of haste got lost in the mail. They will first come in the form of a four-team play-off. You will probably be dead by the time the field is expanded to six in 2025. (Not that you would want to know, but it's going to be a giant horde of wasps which run you down in Guatemala and sting you to death.)

"Wasps! They got Whitney and now they're coming after me! Damn them! Quickly and lastly, a question that has been tormenting my soul since I was accused of being a fake Buckeye last week: Am I an Ohio State fan? Do I hate Ohio State? Show me what is in my soul, Starcat!!!"

*walks away, hops into the window sill and falls asleep instantly on her pillow; thus ending the interview*


Comments Show All Comments

DJ Byrnes's picture

Also, if anybody knows the best way to secure a DVD of the basketball title game loss to Florida, (say by tomorrow at 2pm), I will be forever in your debt.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

Maestro's picture

How is the chest wound?

vacuuming sucks

DJ Byrnes's picture

It's a nasty scar, but her long silky braids cover it well.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

Big Swede's picture

Enjoyed the piece, kudos DJ and Starcat

BuckeyeSki's picture

DJ thought he did a great job at destroying his x-mas cards from a few years ago, but one got leaked to the internet:

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

+1 HS
socferal's picture

I just wanted to say that I've been on the smoking patio at "The OK Cafe" many times. The last time I was there was the night that "The U" defeated our beloved Buckeyes. I had started watching the game at B-Dubs, and at halftime, I thought it might change our luck if I relocated. Obviously this strategy was of no help, but I hadn't been there in awhile, so it was good to return. I didn't see any cats though, I'll be on the look out on my next visit..........

thatlillefty's picture

"Starcat, some commenters on this website are sick of my poorly written rants against the NCAA power-structure."

Hey now, i actually enjoy your writing style. I would just like to see you write about something else for a change. 

Did you write the Lord of the Rings-esque preview for The Game this fall? That was my first week on the site and it made me a true believer in 11W.

thatlillefty's picture

"a question that has been tormenting my soul since I was accused of being a fake Buckeye last week"... LMAO. Didn't realize my comment would have such a profound impact.

My bad DJ

btalbert25's picture

*Starcat nods sagely without looking up from her iPad.*


She was playing Angry Birds wasn't she?

ArTbkward's picture

My money is on Pinterest.

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

btalbert25's picture

I'm convinced there's no fixing the system.  I don't see world where college players will actually get a salary.  Perhaps, one day, somehow they will get a chunk of that revenue from selling gear with their number or video games with their likeness, but that's the only way I see them getting any real compensation for their efforts. 

I also think we'll see a day where maybe they can sell their awards and trophies if they want to, sign autographs for money and maybe even make appearances and things like that.  We'll see I guess. I think that's the only way you'll ever really see college athletes get paid for their efforts though.

BED's picture


The Ohio State University, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2006
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Class of 2009

Johnny Ginter's picture

this is me, everytime DJ writes an article:

buckeye76BHop's picture

This was funny as hell man.  My wife and I took in a stray and he's been great.  But he was just recently diagnosed with feline lukemia and fiv (feline equivalant to HIV...crazy huh?  didn't realize that existed till now).  So he's just about 6 years old and we took him in three years ago.  Max, as the kids named him, had been nuetered and front claws taken out (which my wife and I now have determined someone must have known he had something and dropped him off).  Good to see "Starcat" has been a wonderful pet for you and it's nice to see you given her a good home.  People can be cruel and down right heartless with animals...nice to see you're an animal lover.

BTW...I was born in Marion and moved away when I was 1 (but still have been to the OK Cafe several times;-).  I read your article about coach Hinton a while back and loved it.  I used to coach for Marion Pleasant...and you're exactly correct about their recruiting...hmmhmmmm I mean "open enrollment" that they practice.  I found it Hilarious how the coaches at the time didn't listen to a thing I said about St. Henry and a certain center with a last name Ulenhake (Jeff's nephew) and how they could run on their defensive nose guard.   They proceeded to get crushed at a home playoff was SO FUNNY (not to mention St. Henry used double ISO up the gut about 10+ times).  Thought you'd especially like that last part;-)

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

BuckPirate1981's picture

First off, DJ - smoking Newports? Really? With all we know about the health effects of smoking? And gross pictures like this? Sorry, just doing my part to help you quit broseph. 

That and a lot of great points you make aside, I think the athletics acadamies are a horrible idea. First that come to mind are comments like this:

"I've trained until I cried many times," one small boy says as he takes time out from gym practice. "Sometimes we have to stand on our hands for half an hour."

And this:

"The training was pretty tough, especially during leg stretching," Cheng's mother recalls. "She cried crazily, like she was dying. Her father and I accompanied her and our hearts almost broke into pieces when she cried that heart-wrenchingly."

Which reading behind the subtext of "oh this makes them stronger," these are children. I'm all for OSU football players, now young men all of them, crying after their first few work outs with Marotti. But not small children. In my humble opinion, that's abuse. A lot of these kids being children who come from poor families that now rarely see their children. The cruelty of the system, as one article about the Chinese system notes, was that you bring all these kids in, yet so few of them really make it. Said best by one of the athletes who came out of a Chinese sports factory

"We lose our childhoods and for what purpose? Most of us never make it, and we're left with not very much at all."


Okay, you say. That's China. China bad on human rights, big news there.

First, I conceed the point that our educational system in the US sucks. It could be a lot better. That's a different discussion for another day. Then I submit to you your own article cited, where a club signed a 7 year old. Many would look at, say, a Terrelle Pryor, and think "that guy was doomed before setting foot on campus, as spoiled as he was all those years for being a good athlete." Now imagine the type of individual you create when you start with that nonsense at the ripe old age of 7. From what I gathered in the article the family was not relocated for the child but because of his dad's work, but its not another great leap to say that breaking up families (and taking advantage of some of the poor along the way to do so) would be another issue. Finally leading us to revisit the quote of the gentleman, above. You ruin the childhoods these kids might have otherwise have had, for what reason? Yes, you'll have some that become phenominal, Tiger Woods like athletes. My main issue, however, is what you create off the field. Besides robots who are a little out of touch, you produce someone with less of a skill set to succeed in the real world when their sports dreams end (which for most will not be in professional glory). Not to mention the education isn't all its cracked up to be. Bringing it a lil' closer to home, we do have something similar in the United States to compare to, actually a very good comparision when you think about it:

"People are waiting in line for the few jobs that do exist. The situation is precarious." A graduate auditioning for a seat in a major American orchestra these days typically faces 100 or more competitors for the same job.

What does that sound like? Close enough? So then, here in America, we must have to have similar problems as other countries that offer specialist training to kids who may not make it (much to no fault of their own). What about those kids? What happens with them when they are done with their training?

He needed a day job. But a Juilliard degree had not prepared him for much besides playing. "When you go to a conservatory, something as specialized as that, you're basically from a different planet."


William's picture

I don't see Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Kaka, Bojann Krkic, Fernando Torres, Wayne Rooney, Samir Nasri, Gareth Bale, the Toure brothers, or any other soccer players complaining about the European soccer academies. If anything they guarantee the kids an excellent education as well as the opportunity to become wealthy all the while being more efficiently trained at the sport in which they will attempt to succeed. 

BuckPirate1981's picture

Absolutely. And if I was those guys, I wouldn't complain either. But I think you miss the point of what I was trying to say. For every graduate from Julliard who makes it big, there's a bunch who are waiting tables, or at best doing something much less glamorous with their education. Those that have the life skills to do much of anything else. Think about American sports, and how many kids actually make it big:

Football: .09% or about one in 1,000
Men’s Basketball: .03% or about one in 3,400
Women’s Basketball: .02% or about one in 5,000
Baseball: .5%, or about one in 200.

No idea the statistics for hippy soccer over across the pond, but lets say they're along the lines of real football. For every Fernando Torres, there's 999 other kids who didn't make it big. And those are the ones I care most about - possible "eccentric" personality traits aside, at least the individuals you mentioned should be set financially. 


Maestro's picture

On pirate's side in this argument.  Let kids be kids for as long as they can.  College football is fun for goodness sakes.

vacuuming sucks

ARMYBUCK's picture

I rememeber the comment vividly that questioned your allegience and I disagreed with it... however I dont think he really meant it but was just wanting you to shift gears.  It does however make me think of Kirk Herbstreit, who I completely respect, being a true Buckeye and speaking the truth was chastised and ridiculed and forced into leaving the homeland because of irrational Buckeyes not seeing anything other than what they want to see.  Love Herbie, Love this piece and love the subtle roundhouse to those that cant wrap their narrow minds around someone having an opinion other than their own. 

Poison nuts's picture

I'm a fan of any man who's a fan of cats. By definition - I'm a fan of this piece. Just out curiosity DJ - Have you ever heard of a man named Dave Carnie or his cat Gary? If so, good. If not - that probably sounded like a really odd question and you should pay it no nevermind.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

LABuckeye's picture

Is this you, DJ?


BoFuquel's picture

Out of the park once again DJ. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.