Sports Lacking in Priorities

As I make a haphazard, uneven attempt these days at splitting time between attending classes, doing homework, working at my job, seeing my girlfriend and talking to my family just often enough for my mother to remember that she has five offspring, rather than four, I am reminded, quite Forrest Gump style mind you, that my mama once told me that in life, you gotta have priorities.

Mine are apparently screwed up enough to piss off just about everyone who knows me and wants a few moments of my time.

I do take some small consolation, however, in the knowledge that I am hardly alone in my apparent inability to decipher and decide that which is truly important.

Consider the following events, all of which occurred within the span of a few weeks in the world of college basketball?

?Missouri center Uche Okafor was suspended by the NCAA for once signing with, but never playing with, the now defunct Russian semipro squad Team Dynamo;

?Indiana coach Mike Davis was fined $10,000 by the Big Ten Conference for questioning the competency of the officials after losing a game to Butler;

?Memphis assistant Tony Barbee was given a letter of reprimand and instructed by Memphis Athletics Director R.C. Johnson to write a letter of apology after shoving Arkansas freshman J.J. Sullinger, who inadvertently landed on Barbee while chasing a loose ball in the Razorbacks’ 90-73 win over the Tigers;

?Bob Knight’s lawyer, Russell Yates, admitted that the volatile former IU coach once shoved assistant Ron Felling, but added that at least the incident was “quite different than being a violent punch to hurt someone.”

A coach assaults a colleague and can’t understand why the latter would feel compelled to file a lawsuit. Another coach gives a kid a shove during the course of a game and gets off with saying “I’m sorry” and being told “Please don’t do that again, ya hear, now?” A third coach is out 10 grand for expressing frustration. And a player, whose only compensation was having travel and accommodation expenses picked up, gets the book thrown at him for violating statutes regarding amateurism.

The whole affair?and all its inherent inconsistencies?seem rather amateur to me.

Where are the priorities here?

It’s OK to crack down on a kid who never actually played for another team and a coach who ran off at the mouth against some refs, but coaches who shove their assistants and their opponents around are off the hook?

Undoubtedly, the NCAA’s guidelines for governing the propriety of behavior was created by those same few individuals who devised the existing Bowl Championship Series formula that couldn’t produce a single close bowl matchup.

That, or its priorities are simply as out of whack as the Chicago Bulls’ management’s vision of a quality franchise.

This past football season, the Utah football team had a defensive lineman suspended by the NCAA from playing in the Las Vegas Bowl for using some of his scholarship money to buy books that would help him tutor his younger brother, while an offensive lineman faced no sanctions from college sports’ governing body (though he was suspended by the U for violating one of its policies) despite allegedly assaulting an individual and netting a handful of arrest warrants as a result, because, as an NCAA spokesperson explained, law enforcement is “not an area the NCAA has elected to legislate.”

So?it legislates book buying, but not assault; well, clearly it doesn’t legislate assault, as evidenced by the Bob Knight and Memphis situations. At least it’s consistent with something.

I suppose that it’s still early enough in the year for people to remember those idiotic “New Year’s Resolutions” they’ve made, in which they supposedly will reassess the priorities they’ve made in life. Well, while I like to fancy myself just barely sophisticated enough not to believe or participate in that kind of hooch, maybe this one time I’ll make an exception?

I resolve to try and not piss off everyone I come in contact with, and, for the sanity of my mother, to more fairly and accurately divvy up my time, my energy and my attention.

I just hope the folks involved in college basketball follow my lead.

Eric welcomes feedback at: [email protected].