When I say the word hazing, you probably think about college, maybe a frat house where pledges are forced to dress up or clean the house or things far more onerous and potentially dangerous. In fact, hazing has gone from something of a tradition to a dirty word, something that keeps college presidents up all night. Once a right of passage, now it’s something of a criminal offense.
For the past several years, the military academies, Army, Navy, Air Force, have been at something of a disadvantage in sports, at least in the context of major Division I football. There’s a whole lot of reasons for that. They’ve got that unseemly burden of training both for football and for war. There’s not a lot of gut majors to work with. And as a recruiting pitch, coaches can promise high school stars guaranteed employment upon graduation, most likely in Iraq. That’s not a great sales pitch for any kid dreaming about a different kind of uniform, namely one with an NFL logo on it.
Sex, drugs, and cheating. Sounds a lot like a Tom Wolfe novel, right? Only this story isn’t fiction. This is a story about Oklahoma State football in the decade staring in the late 1990’s, where the marginal football program evolved into a national power that finished consistently in the nation’s top ten. The story is pure non-fiction, in fact, at least as reported by Sports Illustrated over the past several days, after a year of in-depth reporting and interviews with dozens of formers players and coaches and program associates, of which there seem to be way too many. Oklahoma State has already done its best to debunk SI’s reporting as myth, which will be about a simple as disproving the moon landing. Even if reporters overstepped here and there, the narrative is fairly indestructible.
Everything is relative, I suppose. So if a city has suffered five recessions in the past 15 years, a devastating earthquake and a nuclear emergency, it can still somehow be considered the safe choice. That’s Tokyo, and it was oddly the benign selection to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, chosen over the comparatively risky Madrid and Istanbul, or Constantinople, for all you They Might Be Giants Fans. Madrid has an unemployment rate approaching 25% and a long legacy of doping by top athletes. And Istanbul offers civil unrest and an unfortunate neighbor in Syria.
By almost any reasonable regard, $765 million is a lot of money. It’s the kind of number that would make Powerball ticket sales so crazy you couldn’t leave a 7-11 in under an hour. It’s the working budget of some decent sized companies, and almost enough to fund a presidential run.
Before I begin in earnest, I’ll give all the parents with young children a chance to cover their kids ears, because I’m about to discuss one of those universal truths we’re all supposed to believe, like Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy, who by the way has been working overtime at my house lately.
Perhaps the worst thing that could happen to the New York Yankees right now is that they actually make this year’s playoffs. It’s still a long-shot, with the Yanks some five games back and trailing three teams. But given their torrid pace of late, anything is possible. That may be particularly true if Alex Rodriguez plays like the Alex Rodriguez of old, long before he sat out this entire season recovering from hip surgery. He’s looked good so far, way better than the A-Rod that limped his way through last year’s playoff exit, barely able to hit the ball much less run the bases. This is all assuming A-Rod is allowed to play the rest of the season, which feels like a safe bet given his appeal from a 211 game suspension for his use of performance enhancing drugs.
One of the first things I learned in a classroom management course was when a kid blatantly breaks the rules, never ask him or her why they did it. You’re not going to like the answer, and the reality is, most kids don’t know why threw a watermelon out a school window. At that age, impulse far overwhelms reasoned action. So as an educator, forget why, and simply deal with the punishment.
Last night I sat through a full nine innings of Single-A minor league baseball. Once the sugar high of Cracker Jacks and funnel cake wears off, it can get pretty old, if you plan on actually watching the game. There’s missed balls, botched plays, and everything else that reminds you why they call it the minor league instead of, say, the majors. But on a positive note, three hours and four pretzels later, I can definitively say that not everyone in professional baseball takes drugs. That’s probably news after this week, when major league baseball suspended Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun for the rest of the year without pay for his involvement with the Miami clinic Biogenesis, who apparently gave him enough supply to fill a Duane Reade. And I’m talking about one of the big ones down in the city, where they sell groceries and lawn furniture.