Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Community service

We all know what it's supposed to be like. And maybe it was once upon a fairy tale time.

Athletics as a simple enhancement of college life: That's the ideal, right?

Athletics as an integrated part of their universities' fabric. Athletics that function within the academic mission, not as a market-driven entity so removed from that mission they might as well be a Jimmy Johns just off the campus main drag.

You can still find that idealized model, as the Blob pointed out the other day. But in big-ticket college athletics?

Not so much. And so it's heartening when you get a brief glimpse of it, even if it that glimpse is the exception that proves the rule.

Maybe you read about what happened at Oklahoma University over the weekend, when a bunch of oatmeal-brained frat boys at Sigma Alpha Epsilon got caught on video spewing a racist chant. It was like something out of Mississippi in the '60s, or Southie in Boston during the school de-segregation riots of the '70s: Bunch of uneducated peawits using racial slurs and making references to lynching.

In another time and context there would have been real menace to such a thing. But given that it's 2015 and it was, well, a bunch of oatmeal-brained frat boys, it came off more pathetic and clueless than anything else. Hey, check out these sad sacks. They actually think this stuff is cool. Good God.

Good God, indeed. Mainly because they're too dumb to know what they don't know, which is that there are black Americans still alive who remember the dark legacy of the Black Holocaust, when the lynching of people of color was not just an abstract concept but a bloody reality. Thousands were murdered, untold thousands more left to carry the burden of sorrow left behind.

 And so the university, quite properly, came down with both feet on these clowns, throwing SAE off the premises. And there was a campus-wide demonstration of protest. And guess who showed up?

You got it. The mercenaries.

Football coach Bob Stoops was there. Assistant football coach Mike Stoops. Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger. And somewhere around 100 athletes, according to the Tulsa World.

"I was here to be with my guys," Stoops told the World. "We work with beautiful young men and women of all races. It's just -- very little gets me choked up. But that hurt."

It was also a reminder that there are still places -- and more to the point, times -- when athletics is part of the whole. When the individuals brought in to fill the athletic coffers still regard themselves as college students first and commodities second. When what happens outside the athletic bubble still matters, because if you're a Sooner you're a Sooner, and when something besmirches that you link arms and shout it down long and loud.

It was a joy to see. If only, in this day and age, for its novelty.

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