Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rules are Rules, Except in Sports...

I wasn't an athlete growing up, so I've never truly understood the immense reverence with which athletes are treated, that secret fraternity/sorority that allows for a special code of rules and conduct in many places.

Interestingly enough, every sport—and the organizations that govern both professional and collegiate sports—have specific rules, yet rules are only made to be enforced at specific times.

Today the NCAA announced that five Ohio State University football players would be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for selling awards, gifts and university apparel and receiving improper benefits in 2009. Note that the players will not miss the Sugar Bowl, because "the student-athletes did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred"—even though the NCAA decided to dock a fifth game on top of the standard four-game suspension because the players "did not immediately disclose the violations when presented with the appropriate rules education."


So it's a punishment, but they should still get the honor of playing in a major bowl game. (Oh yeah, and the first five games aren't that big of a deal...they'll be back just in time to make the trip to Nebraska for OSU's first clash with the Cornhuskers as a Big Ten rival.)

Why are there rarely serious consequences for breaking the rules, especially in sports?

Does anyone really believe Cam Newton wasn't aware of his father's organizing an illegal pay-to-play scheme in return for his commitment to attend college and play football? No, but inarguably, he was the best player this year and deserved to win the Heisman Trophy, although as demonstrated with Reggie Bush, the award can be rescinded at any time if evidence surfaces.

In any other world, someone who admitted he violated rules and misled investigators would be fired from their job and might even face prosecution. But Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl was simply suspended eight games and fined $1 million. Just another slap on the wrist...

And what of New York Jets' assistant coach Sal Alosi? During a Jets/Dolphins game a few weeks ago, Alosi tripped Dolphin player Nolan Carroll on the sidelines. While it was a ridiculous incident and far beyond the behavior expected of a coach, players aren't punished horribly for far worse hits on their opponents, so the NFL suspended Alosi for the remainder of the season (three games plus any playoff appearances). Now, evidence is coming to light that Alosi ordered several players to set up a wall along the sideline so Alosi could trip Carroll. But instead of Alosi being fired, as of now he has been suspended "indefinitely."

Some people say that because players get second chances, so should coaches. I say that if Alosi were a gym teacher, or a parent coaching his kid's football game, people would call for his head. And here is someone representing the NFL! Ridiculousness abounds...

I know bending the rules and leniency happens all the time, even in our justice system. But if we're paying athletes obscene amounts of money, shouldn't they at least be held to the same rules? It's no wonder when many kids grow up they want to be professional athletes—where else can you get fame, glory, lots of money and free athletic gear, and then get to do whatever you want?

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