BY: CHUCK HILSTON
It seems lately that the ideal sports story of ESPN, SI and news media everywhere doesn’t even have to do with sports. Now, I could completely live with this if it meant they were going to talk about something else related that is insightful. For example, they could talk about how geography/weather could affect the game, or the passion of the fans, or even just do a story on how hard an athlete has worked to come back. I thoroughly enjoy reading any of these, and they are an enjoyable change of pace. Now, I’m not saying these publications don’t do these things, but it appears the time spent on an issue is amplified times 100 if there is some sort of negative controversy involved. Just look at the stories relating to steroids, cheating, or anything else that can be considered morally repugnant.
It looks as if they’ve gotten their exact wishes again now with the most recent “scandal” coming at the hands of the UCLA program. Here is the thought process I believe people had in coming up with this story: Obviously, it makes perfect sense to tie everything in Westwood to one John Wooden, as he only stopped coaching there around 40 years ago. Then, were going to come up with how tight knit and bonded a UCLA team (2006-08) was that had major success, and we’re not going to talk about talent (Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook) at all. These guys worked in the gym 130 hours a week, had 4.0 GPAs, and were in bed before 9, never to go out (sure). Now, with UCLA, a power program throughout the history of mankind struggling, news media figures, here’s a story; let’s sell it. Prepare yourselves, sports fans: are you ready for nonstop discussion of how big of prima donna brats they have in Los Angeles and how Ben Howland is a horrible person for not making sure they are adhering to rules? Yeah, me neither. Let’s just think for a second what this story is: a coach isn’t disciplining star athletes enough for going out and partying and acting like punks on the court? That sounds a little bit like that one team I know. Oh yeah, that’s right, pretty much every other school in the country. Here, in a piece from SI last year, is a list of current players on College Football rosters that had been arrested. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/the_bonus/02/27/cfb.crime/index.html
As you can see, many of the power programs throughout the country (not just UCLA) have had off court discipline issues. The way they talked about the players going out and partying on New Year’s and other times (not that I condone it) is like this is literally the first time this has happened in sports. Of course, SI is taking a unique perspective to it, looking at how it has made them fall apart as a team. However, any of us that has ever played, watched, or been around a sports team knows you are always going to have those kinds of people. Now many newspapers and sports stations around the country are going to be focused around ridiculous claims of how UCLA is the worst group of players in the country, and how abhorrent Ben Howland is for allowing this to occur. I just hope that the hype for this issue isn’t as big as I believe it will be, and that were able to focus on what this month should be about. Basketball.