|Thursday, May 1
Giving new meaning to 'lead by example'
By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com
This one's for all the athletes who were suspended, demoted or otherwise disciplined by their college coaches for "unspecified violation of team rules."
Give it up, yo, for Mike Price and Larry Eustachy. Men who apparently violated incredibly specified team rules.
Price, you may not. New football coach at Alabama, in Florida for something or other, and as it turns out, mostly another. Comes upon a pro, gives her his credit card, she buys a billion dollars of room service (hey, be thankful her chemical dependency issue is after-hours nachos), and then he gets caught.
In a word, oops. In another word, blockhead.
But maybe we're being too harsh here. I mean, he didn't recklessly advance the cause of athlete/welders like Jan van Breda Kolff. And he didn't get caught up to his neck in academic fraud like Jim Harrick. And he didn't make an athletic director cry, like Roy Williams did.
But hey, we're not trying to equate good old-fashioned semi-adult fun with more serious breaches of etiquette, like losing the national championship.
We're trying to equate it with all those breaches of unwritten team rules that pop up every now and then among those wildly felonious athletes, many of whom have used a phone card but almost none of whom have given those phone cards to Bambiii With Hearts Over All The Eyes and said, "Go ahead, call Sri Lanka. Talk all you want. Hey, I'm big in this town."
After all, coaches lead players based on three tenets. One, the coach knows more. Two, the coach controls playing time. And three, the coach has an essential moral certitude about the nobility of his task.
It's a little bit tougher to come off all high and mighty if you've worn a license plate where your lobster bib should go, or been caught throwing down a few after hours with the guys and gals from Chemistry 2B.
After all, what player who has had his term papers taken care of by a secretary can't put two and two together from episodes like that and come up with four, or six, or 23.55, based on nothing more than a defiant, "Yeah, well, how do I know what you're actually breaking down film?"
Now what does that say about the quality of the working girls in Pullman, Wash.?
Frankly, this has not been a good year for the moral high ground in college sports (and we exempt Williams here, who essentially left Kansas while bent over backward telling the people in Lawrence how much he liked and appreciated them). There haven't been an unusal number of firings or bizarre job changes, but the ones there have been are particularly noxious.
And much as we'd like to blame those noisy, intrusive media weasels for digging into things that are none of their business, well, we've decided instead to judge that argument for the great steaming nonsense that it is.
The only rule to public living going back to the days of the cave dwellers (and their first celebrity, Ogg Philbin) is this:
"Don't do anything you're going to have trouble explaining later."
And here we have a run of exactly that sort of thing (again, we exempt Williams, who explained himself so many times that by the end, we were the ones who were crying).
I mean, this is basic stuff, right? Don't screw with the academics, because they have tenure and you don't. Don't screw with the welding department, because they have power tools and you don't. Don't drink with the students.
And above all, don't give the Discover card to someone you don't want discovered.
Still, that's what we have here, and here, and here. We laugh at players who think they're bulletproof, but now the Kevlar vest is on the other chest, so to speak.
So here's to the fellas who had to miss a bowl game, or a Christmas tournament, or didn't get to start the Colgate game. You are not alone. The doghouse is a great big room, with people of all sizes, shapes and ages.
And some of them have brought their video machines and recruiting files. After all, they have to catch up on their work.
Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com