Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hey, look, that guy is back

Well, that was fun.

And by "fun", I mean, four days in New York doing the whole tourist thing, during which I learned some things, about New York and mostly America, and was encouraged by what I learned.

I learned you can live in a city of 8 million souls and probably 2 million languages (or so it seemed) and still have that commonality with one another and the common inclination toward doing the decent thing that makes America what it is, no matter what the Game Show Host thinks. Although I'm sure it happens, same as it does everywhere, the Gomers from Indiana did not get robbed or cheated or otherwise abused in the Big City, despite the prevailing perception  outside the Big City. People were unfailingly polite when you couldn't figure out where exactly the 6 train went. They asked where you were from. They didn't laugh when you told them.

So, two thumbs up for New York.

Now, then. What did I miss while I was gone -- other than the Olympic opening ceremonies, during which we learned that Olympic athletes sure wear some cool hats, and also some, um, not-cool hats?

Well, I apparently missed another mini-debate about the SEC's unconscionable (and possibly illegal) rule that allows coaches to deny a kid's release if he wants to transfer to another SEC school. This happened again when a football player at Alabama named Maurice Smith decided he wanted to transfer to Georgia. Head coach Nick Saban said no.

Couple of things here.

One, Smith, a sometime starter at defensive back,  graduated yesterday, so he's now a graduate student who'd be eligible immediately under NCAA rules. Two, he wasn't on the preseason Alabama roster Saban released to the media anyway. Three, Saban's defense -- that he's only following the rules set down by the SEC -- is no defense at all. Why am I doing this? Not because it's the right thing to do, because we all know it isn't. I'm doing this because the rules say I can.

Which, of course, is weapons-grade bunkum, as is the rule itself. The Blob has been on record before blasting conferences that have this rule, and speculating that it wouldn't stand up for five minutes if the players affected by it would file a class-action suit. That's because it essentially codifies indentured servitude.

The fact is, outside the bubble of college-athletics-as-a-corporate-entity, there is no right that exists for Nick Saban to deny Maurice Smith a transfer to wherever the hell he wants to go. The SEC's rule -- and other rules like it in other conferences -- amounts, in essence, to restraint of trade, given that D-I college football players are regarded as commodities by a system that only pretends they are not. The notion they are anything else is laughable, because this rule applies to no other college student.

This is especially true given Smith's status as a grad student. If an economics graduate at Alabama wants to attend, say, Vanderbilt, for his post-grad work, he is free to do so. But Alabama claims Smith, because he's a "student-athlete," does not have the same right. So tell me again how football players at institutions such as Alabama are just college students playing athletics, and not athletes playing at being college students.

Want to fix that perception?

Fine. Let the kid go, then. And get rid of that damn rule before someone makes you defend it in court. You really don't want to look silly, do you?

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