One time, when my brother and I were little kids putzing around on summer break, we got, as little kids often are, bored.
To entertain ourselves, we decided to push our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy chest down the stairs. I don't exactly recall the logic underpinning this decision, but I was like six, so there probably wasn't much logic involved. Now, this toy chest was boss. It was a few feet tall, wooden with metal clasps like a music roadie's amp box, and heavy. When we shoved it down the stairs, gravity did its thing, and at the bottom it slammed into our home's newly plastered drywall. The hole it left behind -- and our sudden terror at what we had done, and what would happen when our parents saw it -- is one of my most vivid childhood memories.
I share this story because I want to empathize with the NCAA: Summer boredom makes us all go a little stir-crazy. That's probably the best, or at least the most generous, explanation I can come up for the Division I men's basketball recent committee's spate of delayed, ineffectual, borderline pointless reprimands handed out in a series of statements this week.
The first object to catch the NCAA's remarkably belated judicial gaze was Kansas coach Bill Self, who on Wednesday was "fined and reprimanded" for hitting the scorer's table during KU's NCAA tournament win over North Carolina. Our own Jason King discussed this Wednesday night. As King said, no one even noticed Self's outburst, which apparently busted an LED light, at the time. But committee chair Ron Wellman had his crack forensics team re-open the cold case just in time to end Self's monstrous reign of terror. Thank goodness.
Next up was a hearty tsk-tsk sent in the general direction of Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, who memorably flipped fans the bird after his team's second-round loss to La Salle. At the time, most everyone (even those who get really bored by crusty arguments about decorum and/or the good old days) agreed that Henderson's antics had crossed the line from "insane but enjoyable" to "just plain dumb." Henderson, for his part, agreed, and in early April penned a thoughtful letter apologizing for being offensive.
Case closed? Nope. The NCAA circled back this week, almost three months after Henderson's letter, to make sure he knew, as Wellman put it in a statement, that the committee wants to ensure "championship participants act in a manner that represents the highest standards of sportsmanship" and that Henderson's actions "failed in this regard." You can almost smell the justice. It's intoxicating!
And last but not least, the D1 men's hoops committee's turned to the vile international outlaw known as Darron Boatright (if that is his real name), an associate athletic director at Wichita State. Boatright's crime? A "verbal confrontation with the Staples Center security staff prior to Wichita State’s regional semifinal contest against LaSalle." Wellman issued another public reprimand, and another quote that ended with "highest standards of sportsmanship," and who would dispute the world is a great deal safer for it?
Some have criticized, and even gone so far as to lampoon, the men's basketball committee for this. Many have insinuated that the NCAA's punishments are so meaningless as to be nonexistent, and so drastically delayed as to be irrelevant. Some have even been so insulting as to begin their blog posts comparing their six-year-old exploits toy chest destruction as analogous to the NCAA's motives.
Now that we've had a chance to review the evidence, though, we can only praise the men's committee's bravery in this matter. Wellman and his rogueish band of brothers are the only people standing between March Madness as we know it and the bird-flipping, table-punching, Staples Center-employee-arguing dystopia that lies just beyond our walls. They may not be the heroes we deserve, but they're the ones we need right now.