Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Unfragrant World We Live In

The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs. ~Charles de Gaulle

I haven't been blogging much lately because a) I'm lazy and b) even I get tired of being a curmudgeon all the time. Sadly, current events continually reinforce my surly lack of faith in mankind.

A long time ago, I wrote about Ray Ray McElrathby, a find young man who had escaped his drug-addled mother and gambling-addicted father through football, getting a scholarship to play at Clemson. If that wasn't impressive enough, he got guardianship of his then sixth-grade brother to get him out of the environment, too. Aside from wanting to give credit to a man working hard to do the right thing, I also wanted to smack down a smartaleck sports talk show jock who claimed that the evil NCAA was working to keep Ray Ray from getting financial support from voluntary donations being made by South Carolinians.

Of course, it turned out that the NCAA did nothing of the sort, and the McElerathbys got to use the donations and accept the help of coaches. All's well that ends well, right?

In a pig's eye.

Clemson, in a show of classlessness that beggars belief, has taken away Ray Ray McElrathby's athletic scholarship. Did they do this because his academics were poor? No. Was he inspired by the Alabama football players and get arrested at 3 AM at some bar? No. Did he do anything wrong? Not in the least.

It seems that Clemson signed more players to scholarships for next season than they have available. Now this is not an unusual state of affairs; teams routinely sign more players than they are actually allowed to because some will not meet academic requirements, some will leave early, and some just haven't done well enough on the field. Evidently, Mr. McElrathby was deemed to be one of those expendable for on-the-field performance, so they docked him his scholarship so they could give to some hotshot incoming freshman.

Note that they weren't cutting him from the team. If he wants to pay his own way, he can still be a member of Clemson's football factory. Clemson is more than happy to have him; they just don't want to pay his way any longer.

One could say that Clemson has the right to give scholarships to whomever they wish, and one would be correct. But, when you have a truly deserving individual who has to be contributing to the character of the team and is doing some very tough things in his life, one would also think that Clemson could have sacrificed the 25th-best incoming player. In this instance, one would be wrong.

The irony is that, back when Clemson was portraying itself as such a good Samaritan, one of the coaches was quoted as saying,
"I know we have to abide by the rules and everything. But someone in a similar situation not involved with the NCAA can get all the help they want.” As I pointed out in my earlier piece, this is bullpuckey. the help available to those not fortunate enough to be in a big-time football program have far less resources available to them than Ray Ray would.

Now, Clemson is essentially letting him find out how those students would fare. Hopefully, the donations he received in 2006 allowed him to set some money aside until he can get his brother through high school.

What brings this sort of thing into stark relief is the sad fact that people with loads of money who could come to the aid of those who need help seem to think that squandering it on nonsensical ventures is a more sensible thing to do. For example, some noodlebrain with more money than brains named Marcus Katz decided that it would be a wise use of his resources to start yet another football league, the All American Football League. The brilliant plan here was to place teams in big college stadia because college fans, used to watching teams like Alabama and Michigan play for national titles were going to be enamored of watching players who never made it to the NFL playing semipro-level ball.

The league has "suspended operations" prior to opening its first season. This is a fancy way of saying that the league has folded. The likelihood of coming back from tanking your opening season is somewhere between slim and none. To achieve this state of affairs, Mr. Katz has flushed $29 million down the proverbial toilet.

Does anyone care to speculate how many people could be helped by a contribution of $29 million? The city of Birmingham, Alabama, which was going to be host to one of these pitiful AAFL franchises has 2500 homeless people. What would an infusion of $29 million do to the agencies that help these people get work, find housing, and get off the street?

It's easy to pick on Marcus Katz because he's such a visible fool being parted from his money. I could have picked on many successful professional franchises giving millions to guys to play kids' games, or I could have chosen to pick on Warren Buffett who's willing to part with his fortune when he dies by giving it to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Mr. Gates, whatever I may think of Microsoft, is parting with his money while he's still alive, assisting libraries and schools and providing medical assistance to places that never see doctors.

Unfortunately, for every Bill Gates, there's a bunch of Paris Hiltons. Or Clemsons.

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