"What do we want to happen when scandal breaks?"
"Rather, what do we expect to happen when scandal breaks?"
I have spent the better part of the last 24 hours trying to answer these two questions. To the first, I can generally say that I want change and betterment to happen when things that are unfair and unethical are brought to light. Whether it is a company paying the government off to get some breaks on shady business practices, whether it is Enron cooking their books to make a buck, or whether its that annoying guy on the sales floor who has been stealing sales leads from you, it's all the same. You want the situation left in a better place than when it started. Of course, that generally leads to my second question.
"What do we expect? What can we do about things? Why should we even care?"
It does seem like we have been programmed to believe that nothing ever changes. Scandals happen every day, but people usually bounce back from it. They either take their punishment and move on as a redemption story or they accept their punishment and learn to cheat and steal their way to the top in a different way. This seems quite cynical, but I would venture to guess that a great portion of the readers here would agree that when someone is caught, it's not about changing their ways, it's about realigning how they look. It's a sleight of hand, right?
And so, we are presented with two very different scandals across two very different publications, but with the same subject matter - Major College Football. Sports Illustrated is in the middle of a Five-Part Series on the Rise, and what may be the fall, of Oklahoma State and Yahoo dropped a major bomb on the landscape yesterday with the stories of multiple SEC schools having instances of improper benefits being paid to either lure - or keep - various players happy. In the generalized sense, there is a fair amount of outrage over these stories and each school has had to learn how to create a sense of damage control because nobody likes a cheater. They have now been caught and they should be punished, but the cynic in all of us knows they won't.
Yeah, they'll get away with it. But maybe I don't even care anymore.
This is the scary place I find myself. I have read multiple responses to this story and every time I think I agree with someone like Dan Wetzel on the notion that the NCAA's rules should just be thrown out or we should get rid of amateurism or any of those crazy revolutionary ideas. Of course, I also think about my apathy towards the whole issue. Can things change? Do things change? While most would suggest that we just simply need to pay players and that will make all of these things go away and we will no longer be taking advantage of young men from poor communities for our entertainment, the far scarier reality is that the answer to both of the 'Can' and 'Do' questions might be no.
No. Things don't change. They can't change.
Seriously, imagine that for a moment. There is a distinct possibility that this is just how things are. So long as we believe in the lie of college football, maybe this is the output of environment that we will have to endure. Scandal becomes synonymous with everyday life because that is just how these things work. Even more importantly, the notion that 'education for play' is a worthy exchange seems to be going by the wayside. This farce is propped up by the listing of a major by each player while he is being introduced, but honestly we don't care anymore about what major Clowney has than we do what his favorite food is. We idolize, but moreso objectify and our outrage is quickly misplaced. Academics are a nice story, but give us a player who can barely read but hits hard and we are good to go. The schooling matters only because it gives credence to the story.
The SEC is a bunch of cheaters.
And here is why I am even writing anything about these scandals on our site in the first place. I have no idea what will come of either report. If most of the response I have read are to be believed, nothing can - or will - happen at this point. Look at Miami. Look at Oregon. There is now precedent that things can, and will, go unpunished and that is just the world we are living in. More importantly, however, is that these punishments are usually just a way to make people on the outside feel good. We aren't changing anything. No, we are simply making a show for the public while we continue to have huge blind spots for what real issues may be.
So before we even go down this road, let's remember that the Big Ten is not above this mess either. This is not a SEC problem, and if we try to frame it as such, we're missing the point. College Sports are not about 'college' anymore. While the idea that an amateur plays for the love of a game and the love of their school, it is probably more true that this person plays for the love of money. How can you move up? How can you get that payday? If someone is wiling to help you out along the way, so be it. All it takes is a handshake and a wink and you're on your way. So let's not even go there right now. Doing so only furthers the myth that there are no problems and we have no chance of change.
In fact, thinking about it a little more, this would be the worst response to scandal possible. Let's not be the worst.