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March Insanity: The Plight of the Little Guys

This year marked the first year where I skipped out on March Madness. I feel like madness is fitting here. Not because I felt strangely disinterested in college basketball. No, the real reason I stopped watching is because the NCAA is really about grown men making millions of dollars while kids play basketball and see none of it. Granted, this isn’t anything new. The NCAA is, and has been, broken for a while now and nobody seems interested in doing anything to fix it.

We pretended we cared when we required basketball players to “go to college” for one year before declaring so they could write papers like this. To be honest, Google translate could have written a better paper than that, although it wouldn’t have had to because Rosa Parks’ biography is in English and Google translate doesn’t have free will. Of course, that’s not the point. Google translate wrote this article, but at least I proofread it.

That of course is the problem with America, and most of the world — if there’s money, well, period. Nothing else really matters. Not people’s feelings and certainly not people either. It’s capitalism, and it’s not capitalism at the same time, because the definition of capitalism is not what capitalism actually is nowadays. And while “economists” will claim that capitalism is actually based in altruism, anybody who has actually been alive can see that’s a blatant lie, e.g. Monsanto.

The NCAA, like western capitalism, is a system that could have gone down the right road, yet veered off the highway some twenty plus years ago. After all, our real world sleaziness has allowed us to “build” an “America” that is entirely dependent on China, or any other country where we pay people poor wages to make our shirts, pants, bowls, cups, rugs, furniture, electronics and… athletic jerseys.

So it’s hardly surprising that we’ve one upped the people we’re robbing overseas and have begun robbing our own pint-sized academic, athletic citizens in the guise of “betterment.” Because, honestly, we’re really not giving these kids anything. Not a true education and certainly not money. If we took the basketball players on Florida, UConn, Kentucky and Wisconsin and calculated money earned to money payed out and made some questionable parallels, every one of those people working in factories in China and making US products wouldn’t just be wealthy. They would be bottomlessly, fabulously wealthy. Their bank account would literally read the infinity symbol.

Because we don’t pay these college athletes anything. Not only that, we embarrass and occasionally destroy their futures if they do accept money and we pretend like we actually care about decency and morals. How silly Derrick Rose could have been to let someone else take his SATs and go play basketball under the NCAA’s protective wing, who in turn milked him for all he was worth only to deal him a nice ol’ crack-back when he finally started making his own millions. Memphis was a feel good story. Thank you dear old NCAA for turning them into another Michigan.

All this makes me sick and tired of the NCAA. Their smaller parts (the academic institutions themselves) cover up sexual assault, pedophilia, academic fraud and whatever while the NCAA cries foul after the damage has already been done and lays down bowl tablecloth swipes and scholarship sanctions. After, of course, the NCAA has already pocketed millions of dollars in (literally) sweatshop profits generated from the offenders. The point is, NCAA, if you care, show you care. Take preventive measures. When was the last time you saw an NCAA related infraction that wasn’t at least a year old get reported?

I used to hear the idea that the NCAAB creates a better product than the NBA. That the players care, they actually play defense, they have more “heart.” And while that’s true in some respects (but certainly not all, as there are plenty of NBA players who care and have heart) it’s also misguided. Because the NBA, at the very least, has transparency.

Adam Silver (just like David Stern, god bless his soul) uses grown men to make a lot of money. But that’s okay, because he acknowledges this, and he pays these grown men a lot of money. Even if he should probably pay them a lot more, the underpayment is at least acknowledged. Every ten years or so, the powers that be will sit down with Derek Fisher or some other walking zombie basketball player and they say, “Hey, we’re kind of robbing you, sorry, but it’s just gotta be that way” and the players will shrug because the difference between $175 million and $200 million doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) really matter.

Look, I didn’t watch any March Madness this year because I don’t care anymore. I’m tired. And I’m sad. I heard it was a great tournament, too. Anytime a 7 plays an 8 is a treat. When the little guys win out (even if Kentucky is huge and all of their players are NBA bound), it’s a victory for the world. It makes me smile, because for one brief moment, the people who work hard and fill the world with passion come out on top. It makes me forget that they’re being robbed blind.

There’s enough pain and suffering in the world and sometimes sports just don’t really matter in the universal schemes of big guys squashing little guys. If I’m going to trudge on down to my neighborhood bar and get a few beers and feel sorry about the state of the universe, I prefer to avoid conflict. That means skipping out on NCAA money charades and leaving my phone that was made out of conflict minerals obtained by African children who work 48-hour shifts amidst mudslides and tunnel collapses at home.

Sometimes, you just need to be alone with the stars, drinking local beer out of glasses made in China.