Mr. Burns: Tell me, Simpson, if an opportunity arose for taking a small short-cut, you wouldn't be averse to taking it, would you?
Homer: Hmm, not as such.
Mr. Burns: Neither would I. If you can take advantage of a situation in some way, it's your duty as an American to do it. Why should the race always be to the swift, or the Jumble to the quick-witted? Should they be allowed to win merely because of the gifts God gave them? Well I say, "Cheating is the gift man gives himself."
Homer: Mr. Burns, I insist that we cheat!
The Tour de France just started recently, and in all the world you will not find a greater example of a large group of athletes and teams just completely not giving any sort of a damn about the rules created to govern a sport. Started over 100 years ago, the Tour has been and will always be a competition rooted in pain, endurance, and seeing how much crap you can get away with over a period of several weeks without someone caring enough to snitch on you.
The second tour, in 1904, was one of the most scandalous. Riders were punished for skulduggery including taking shortcuts and using cars and trains. Others, such as race favourite Maurice Garin, were beaten up by their rivals' supporters. The following year saw nails being strewn on the course, a practice that continued for several more Tours.
Then followed decades of cocaine abuse and finally, steroids, HGH, and enough blood doping to launch a horse into orbit. This handy graph lays out just how many top cyclists have been busted in the Tour de France in recent years, and it'd be a little sad if it weren't so completely awesome. By the standards set forth by his peers, Lance Armstrong might really be the best athlete of all time, not in spite of his cheating, but because of it.
Anyway, I've been thinking. The last thing that Ohio State the football program was busted for was the equivalent of not putting enough change in the parking meter. FIFA president Sepp Blatter looks at Jim Tressel with awe and kills himself in ritual suicide, because he knows he'd never gaze on something as pure and innocent ever again.
So it's time to step up our game. Let's cheat! And not in some namby-pamby pay for play scheme, or selling shoes for discounts on tattoos, or fake internships or whatever. We'll use the worst and weirdest that college football has had to offer, and see how we might implement that here in ye olde Columbus town.
Cade McNown at UCLA is a pretty good trendsetter in the field of sexy cheating. Sometimes cheating doesn't have to be directly football-related to be fun, and the supreme dickishness of what McNown and several other teammates did was pretty terrific; they ended up with handicapped parking passes somehow and used them to deny the disabled citizens of southern California their rightful access to closer parking spots.
That's a level of cartoonish bro-wankery that fits in perfectly with my personal image of what a typical UCLA student acts like, but I think at OSU we can one up them. How about fake pregnancy bellies for skill position players so they can get into Giant Eagle more quickly? Maybe forge some documents claiming that half of the incoming 2015 class are Vietnam War veterans, and get their heath care covered by the VA (the VA being roughly as responsive to player health concerns as their universities typically are). I dunno, I'm just spitballing here.
Back in 2003, San Diego State got dinged for conducting offseason workouts in a sand pit. The NCAA report uses the word "sand" 13 times in their report, but again, I think we can do them one better. Just imagine if instead of "sand," the words "creamy Thousand Island dressing" were used. Or "lego bricks." Or "grapes with the skin peeled off so they feel like eyeballs."
With that said, I'm not sure that Ohio State can match the sheer ridiculousness of the University of North Carolina, which I'm not positive is actually a real college anymore and may in fact just be a front for a really misguided cigarette company. Literally hundreds of Tarheel student athletes were enrolled in dozens of classes that mostly didn't exist, which is pretty ballsy, but not as ballsy as a department chairman pretending to teach almost all of them.
I'm not suggesting that Ohio State completely tanks it's growing academic reputation, but there really isn't any reason that they can't dare the NCAA to do something by coming up with increasingly ridiculous classes taught by local crackpots. Why shouldn't there be a class about The Amazing Spider-Man, issues #142-175? How is it fair that out football Buckeyes don't have an in-depth understanding of the physics behind drinking out of a bendy straw? Can anyone truly succeed in life without getting acquainted with the history of the dutch oven? There should, it isn't, and you can't.
I'm also a pretty big fan of the infractions that Texas Tech got dinged with in 1998, part of which included the impressible allowance of football players to make long-distance calls on the dime of the university. That greatly amuses me, and to match that, OSU needs to find some archaic technology to abuse the hell out of. I personally recommend that Urban Meyer spares no expense in setting up a vast network of telegraph wires that feed directly into potential recruits' homes, and then spend the entire recruiting dead period teaching the football team Morse code. Another possibility is to turn Tracy Sprinkle into some kind of Mike Tysonish birdkeeper, and force him to train pigeons to send letters of recruitment in order to keep his scholarship.
There's really no reason why Ohio State shouldn't immediately begin getting started on all of this, especially because once you realize how long the NCAA's list of major infractions and punishment are, you start to understand that every season is an extended game of Russian roulette with the rules anyway. Plus, seeing as how selling personal property has forever lumped Ohio State football in with programs that have enabled literal murder and pedophilia, maybe we might as well embrace the role as a villain.
Or, maybe, we don't cheat? Maybe... the minor, ridiculous rules that the NCAA has could be relaxed, and schools with gargantuan athletic departments like Ohio State can focus on the really bad stuff while maybe letting an athlete have an extra buck or two in their pocket? Maybe we could do this in a sane, measured way that encourages compliance without the specter of ridiculous and uneven punishment hanging over our heads?
So let's cheat! It'll be fun as hell while it lasts, and even if we're being 99% compliant, in the end we're a big fish in a small pond that NCAA fishing rods would love to land. You might as well go whole hog, because there isn't a whole lot of incentive not to right now.