Nothing like a scandal to break boredom
Every year at about this time, we come to the same realization: Early July is a pretty boring time to be a sports fan.[+] EnlargeMatthew Emmons/US PresswireCoaches, such as former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, can make a fortune while players are asked to restrain from profiting off any celebrity.
Although it's true that if you're a fan of women's soccer you probably just had the greatest week since Brandi Chastain donned her sports bra in 1999, there is a void in our hearts where football, basketball and hockey stay for the majority of the year.
Maybe this is why summertime is such a peak season for bands like us to tour? People are so devoid of athletic entertainment that they'll venture out to see things such as the Ultimate Air Dog Challenge, in which dogs compete to jump for the greatest distance. (We actually had front row seats this past weekend, and those dogs are fantastic and adorable athletes …)
Don't get us wrong; baseball is the national pastime and has been since the name Shoeless Joe didn't make you picture Ray Liotta's baby blues. But there's still nothing like the fall, when the MLB playoffs, NCAA football, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL are all busy enough to keep even the most ADD of us sports fans satisfied.
Being entertainers ourselves, we feel particularly bad for the sports journalists and personalities who have to fill columns and radio/TV shows of the same length with such a depleted arsenal of topics to discuss. This is especially true this year, as the only exciting NFL happenings are labor meetings and the NBA is in its own lockout.
Just this afternoon, a sports talk radio program we flipped on was discussing the topic "Why do our wives make us do chores?" which further proves to us that summer is a hard time to be a sports talk radio host.
Here in Detroit, however, the phone lines are staying fairly busy with sports fans eager to discuss some locally significant news -- the Ohio State Buckeyes' NCAA violations.
The Ohio State University-University of Michigan rivalry is one of the oldest in all of U.S. sports, dating back to 1897 (when people were still settling disputes by pistol duel). The bad blood goes back even further, though, to the Toledo War in 1835.
Yes -- at one point in time, Michigan and Ohio raised militias to fight over the city on the Toledo strip. Michigan lost the war after President Andrew Jackson intervened, and got its share of the Upper Peninsula and its statehood as compensation.
In hindsight, when one considers that the venerable Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo was born a Michigander in the Upper Peninsula town of Iron Mountain, thinking of the war as anything but a win for Michigan seems like a mischaracterization.
What we are saying here is that we will not lose sleep over the pickle OSU finds itself in. We grew up watching the Michigan schools compete against Ohio State, so we are a part of this historical feud whether we like it or not. (For the record, we have had wonderful experiences in Ohio, and if it were up to us, we'd all squash the beef.)
The situation the Buckeyes are in, however, seems like it was inevitable. A bunch of 18-year-old kids have fame and celebrity that exceed their financial means, and we expect them not to want more?
Think of how much money the Ohio State football players make for the Big Ten and for their school. We realize that in return they are getting a free education, but some of them really don't have much of a desire to pursue four years of school. The age minimum the NFL put in place practically forces kids to play in college for at least a year, which makes it hard to argue that they should feel adequately compensated for putting their bodies on the line and their careers at risk.
Imagine being a celebrity on campus and even being a nationally recognized figure, and having to scrape together $10 to take a co-ed out for cheap burritos. All while your coach is making a fortune, the school and television networks are rolling in the dough, and it's being made off your sweat and talent.
It wouldn't sit well with most of us Americans.
So these kids did what humans devoid of currency have done for centuries and turned to the barter system. They traded a jersey here and some pants there, and they lived a life more befitting of their status. It doesn't seem like such a big deal to us for some reason.
Jim Tressel, who recently resigned as Buckeyes coach, is like a nerdy Darth Vader to us Michiganders, and in this situation, he seems a bit like John Goodman's portrayal of Coach Dekoth in the movie "Revenge Of The Nerds," in which he almost lived vicariously through his players' poor decisions on campus. As a very high-paid and powerful man, Tressel should have been more responsible in this instance, so it's hard for us to feel that bad for him.
However, we can't help but feel bad for the players in a lot of ways. Maybe it's time the NCAA figures out a way to compensate the athletes who make it such a profitable business? It seems to us like these types of transgressions are likely occurring on many campuses around the country, and frankly, it only hurts us as college football fans.
It just won't feel the same when the Michigan teams beat Ohio State with one arm tied behind their backs …
Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are contributing a bi-weekly sports blog for ESPN Music. The Detroit indie dance-pop -- or hip-hop folk -- duo just released "It's A Corporate World," and they might soon be making a pit stop in a town near you.
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