Thursday, September 28, 2006

Enough Davidson Sports To Go Around

As evidenced by the expansive number of pseudo-professional sports blogs that are out there right now, a lot of people think that they know a lot about sports. For many years, I have understood there to be an expanding culture of sports "laymen" (those that invest a lot of time and thought in sports without a professional link) that take themselves very seriously when it comes to their opinions about their favorite sports and favorite teams.

This dynamic has progressed from the days of call-in radio shows (which still exist, I think) to internet chatrooms to blogs to reality shows that take ordinary people and make them sports anchors. For many reasons, this reality can be very intimidating to a young amateur who thinks that he has the gumption to try to make this stuff into a living.

I bring up my own personal immersion into the world of sports dialogues to connect to a growing reality surrounding Davidson sports. Although Davidson sports, basketball in particular, are thoroughly behind the curve in terms of media saturation and auxiliary fan involvement, there are some growing trends that I believe that, although they might be common, are not good for Davidson.

As one who is presently involved in the proliferation of Davidson sports media as well as connected to the voices of leadership that are claiming to speak for students and local alumni, I believe that Davidson has become a monolithic entity in many people's minds.

In this light, I look at the Davidson basketball program and the way in which different people and groups tend to see it. There are different groups of students on campus that want to claim ultimate fandom of this "unheralded" team. Last year, student groups attempted to outdo each other with cheers from different parts of the stadium, often refusing to join in with a cheer started by a different group. Different figures of local alumni are often in disagreement over what their team needs to get to the next level. Even the athletic department itself has a particular agenda over how fandom should progress and who should know about Davidson.

Everyone thinks they know what's best for "their" team. They all claim ownership in different ways, whether it's owning season tickets, or starting student fan groups with T-shirts, or riding to so many away games, or even being paid by the school to make the season function. Just like callers on a weekly radio shows, Davidson fans can express different opinions on the message board in everything from "Night with the Cats" to starting lineups to fan conduct.

Usually, I would end this by saying that this is all OK because a plurality of opinions are good for us, and it's helpful to hear everyone else, once in a while. But there is "something in the water" at Davidson. We don't like to think that there is a differing opinion about something we so dearly cherish in a unique way.

Well, perhaps we aren't all that unique after all. Maybe Davidson can get some things wrong sometimes, and maybe we aren't the coolest little school that is so perfect at everything. Maybe there never was a "secret" because it wasn't that important if we told someone.

Davidson basketball and Davidson sports in general will help provide me with distinctive and unforgettable memories of my college life. It is special in that sense. But we need to be careful of making our understanding and opinions be about something so special that we don't accept its differing importance in others. We should all be a little more supportive of that this year, and if we are, we might actually become as special and unique as we have already imagined.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Some Memories Can't Have Asterisks

(published in The Davidsonian, 9/20/06)

Back when I was in high school, I participated in a program called Youth in Government. I acted as a lawyer in a mock court, and had to try several made up cases. As one might imagine, the scope of the cases were limited to only several pages of background and written testimony. As a result, my team learned of a very important strategy that many lawyers use to influence the jury: Say some objectionable things. The judge might strike it from the official record, but the human jury could never get it out of their minds.

It is through this example that I bring up a very important issue in the current national sports scene. What really counts for greatness now? That which we witness, or that which is ultimately kept in the record books?

The developing controversy surrounding Reggie Bush brings this issue to the forefront. Bush and his family are facing allegations that they wrongly accepted over $100,000 in gifts and cash from two marketing agents. While Bush has adamantly declared that he is innocent of the charges, there is some substantial evidence to the contrary.

If this whole thing goes down and Bush is fully implicated, his Heisman and the Southern California national championship could be taken away. However, I will never be able to believe and accept that USC was not the best team in the country for that season. You can take those trophies away from them, but that National Championship season exists in its own right in our memory.

The NCAA has a lot of power, but they can’t control our minds. Not yet anyway.

When pertaining to issues of unrelated grievances, such as illegally taking money, the issue seems relatively cut and dry. Guys like Pete Rose and Reggie Bush might not be upstanding citizens, but they are still incredible athletes. In their own right, their accomplishments affected the sports world in an irreversible way. We might try to have them tainted in the name of justice, but their memory will never be erased.

This argument starts getting a little more hairy when we run into athletes whose “cheating” actually had a direct influence on their athletic accomplishments: Barry Bonds, Floyd Landis and practically everyone in the NFL.

Barry Bonds has hit home runs unlike any in our generation, and yet I’m told that I have to ignore it. It’s kind of not really supposed to count. Or something. As a sports fan, the present conundrum with steroids has handicapped our ability to recognize accomplishment and garner strength in victories and records.

For my part, I still remember watching Bonds’ 73rd home run of the 2001 season. I won’t be able to forget Floyd Landis’ incredible one-day comeback putting him in first place in the 2006 Tour de France. This is like asking me to forget the Bills’ 32 point comeback in 1992 playoffs because Frank Reich and Don Beebe shot up before the game.

Our nation’s sports watchdog institutions need to better understand what they are getting themselves into. Surely it is a noble cause to try to maintain the amateur status of college sports.
However, just last week, the NCAA opened itself up to further problems by having a sense of sympathy. They allowed for the creation of a trust fund for Clemson CB Ray Ray McElrathbey, who had gained custody of his little brother over the summer. McElrathbey is trying to raise his brother in a positive environment and the NCAA ruled that it had no problems with a member institution sponsoring this personal endeavor.

But what if an athlete is married in college and is struggling to support his spouse? What if one has lost all of his familial and personal belongings in a natural disaster? Can an NCAA institution allow an athlete to receive charity then?

Lines are becoming blurred, and our tangible entities, like championships and records, are the only things that we can use as collateral and punishment.

Ultimately, however, all that these institutions can do is to put an asterisk in the record books. In trying to punish the offenders, the sports fans and their culture are also punished. All of a sudden, the historical map of champions and records has become blurred and ambiguous. For all of our passion and support, we, the sports fans, deserve better.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Week 2 Results and Standings

Overall Standings

1. Will 22-10
Chris 22-10
3. Phil 20-12
Suzie 20-12
5. Jenn 16-16

Week 2 Results

Will 12-4
Chris 12-4
Jenn 10-6
Phil 10-6
Suzie 10-6

Friday, September 15, 2006

Week 2 Picks

Week 2 Picks

(S, W, C, P, J) Carolina at Minnesota

(W, C) Buffalo at Miami (S, J, P)

(S, C, J) NY Giants at Philadelphia (W, P)

(S, W, C, J, P) New Orleans at Green Bay

Houston at Indianapolis (W, S, C, J, P)

Detroit at Chicago (W, S, C, J, P)

Cleveland at Cincinnati (S, W, C, J, P)

(S, J) Tampa Bay at Atlanta (W, C, P)

Oakland at Baltimore (W, C, S, J, P)

(S) Arizona at Seattle (W, C, J, P)

(S, C, W, J, P) St. Louis at San Francisco

Tennessee at San Diego (C, W, S, J, P)

(S, W, C, P) New England at NY Jets (J)

(C, J) Kansas City at Denver (S, W, P)

(W, P) Washington at Dallas (C, S, J)

(C, S, P) Pittsburgh at Jacksonville (W, J)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Week 1 Standings

1. Will (10-6)
Suzie (10-6)
Chris (10-6)
Phil (10-6)
5. Jenn (6-10)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

NFL Pick'em (Week 1)

For this year's NFL pick em, I have decided to include the picks of several friends of mine to make it more interesting. I hope to find time to publish some more original writings, but this is all I got for now. Here is the key (W=me; S=Suzie Eckl, my Davidsonian co-editor; C=Chris Burton; J=Jenny Jenn; P=Philthy, my roommate)

(S, C, J) Miami at Pittsburgh (W, P)

(S) Baltimore at Tampa Bay (P, W, C, J)

(C) Atlanta at Carolina (P, S, J, W)

(C, W, P) Denver at St. Louis (J, S)

(W) Buffalo at New England (P, C, S, J)

(C, W, P) Philadelphia at Houston (S, J)

(C, W, S, J, P) New Orleans at Cleveland

(C, W, S, J, P) Seattle at Detroit

(S, C) NY Jets at Tennessee (J, W, P)

(S, W, J, P) Cincinnati at Kansas City (C)

(S, W, C, P) Chicago at Green Bay (J)

(S, C, J, P) Dallas at Jacksonville (W)

San Francisco at Arizona (C, W, S, J, P)

(W, C, P) Indianapolis at NY Giants (J, S)

(S, C) Minnesota at Washington (W, J, P)

(W, P) San Diego at Oakland (S, C, J)