Braves-Gamecock: Johnny Football, Jim Thorpe and Ending Elitist Amateurism

This is the eighth annual Braves-Gamecock Ode-to-Leonard’s-Losers College Football Kickoff column.


Before addressing yesterday’s whitewash (albeit welcome, given recent alternatives) of elitist amateurism’s latest unconstitutional restriction of an adult U.S. citizen’s right to sell his own private property, let us preview the first week of the 2013 college football season which kicks off this evening when my beloved Carolina Fighting Gamecocks host Research Triangle (north of the Carolina border) Tar Heels in Columbia, S.C. (which Andrew Jackson said is separated from Hell by only a screen door).

Leonard Postosties and The Smart Pill Machine

This column has always been dedicated to the late Athens, Georgia native, Leonard “Postosties” Postero, pigskin prognosticator extraordinaire, whose “Leonard’s Losers” radio show was a must-listen all during our childhood and until his death in 2001. Having consulted with Leonard’s Smart Pill Machine and our alter ego oracle Cockstradamus, we present this week’s losers:

  1. Tar Heels will lose to Gamecocks
  2. Clemson Tigers will lose to Georgia Bulldogs
  3. Hokie/Gobblers will lose to a Crimson Tide
  4. Chippewas will lose to Wolverines
  5. Hawaii will lose to Southern Cal
  6. Mississippi State will lose to Oklahoma State
  7. Rebels will lose to Commodores
  8. Horned Frogs will lose to LSU Tigers
  9. Nevada will lose to UCLA
  10. Boise State Broncos will lose to Washington Huskies
  11. California will lose to Northwestern
  12. Wofford Terriers will lose to Baylor Bears
  13. Temple Owls will lose to Fighting Irish

and 14. Rice Owls will lose to First Half-Johnny Football-less Aggies, speaking of which:

The NCAA’s investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is over. As first reported byBilly Liucci of TexAgs.com, Manziel has been suspended for the first half of Saturday’s opener against Rice. Manziel, who was being investigated for allegedly accepting payments in exchange for autographs, met with the NCAA for nearly six hours on Sunday.

The NCAA released a statement on Wednesday evening describing the details of Manziel’s consequences, which resulted from an “inadvertent violation regarding the signing of certain autographs,” but the NCAA found no evidence that Manziel accepted money. Alongside the player’s suspension, he must address his teammates regarding the situation, and Texas A&M must revise its education concerning student-athlete autographs. The NCAA prohibits student-athletes from accepting money for items they sign, but NCAA Bylaw likewise requires student-athletes to take steps to prevent the sale of any items using their name or likeness.

Amateurism was  a faux moral construct from its English “gentleman” inception

Johnny Manziel worked hard to make his personal signature valuable to others. He practiced and played football for many years before becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. When signing his name, he moves a force through a distance, which is the classical definition of work. Even Miley Cyrus has to work to present her visage for sale, but I digress.

This column has always held in contempt the Obamacare-like, arbitrary and Liberty-denying NCAA sports-eligibility rules that prohibit adults that happen to be student athletes from accepting gifts or earning money when not cramming for exams, practicing their sport or participating in academic-entertainment complex contests. Our opposition to the rules was first kindled when the Clemson Tigers managed to beat Nebraska in the 1981 Orange Bowl to win a national football championship, only to be suspended for recruiting violations that even this in-state rival Gamecock deemed mostly arcane and puny.

Then came the 2003 suspension of Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett, 2012 hijacking of Southern Cal’s Reggie Bush‘s  2005 Heisman trophy and this past off-season’s dissection of Crimson Tide-slayer Johnny Football. Much of our disdain for the rules concerned the hardship on college athletes from poor families that have little spending money between enjoying scholarship-funded tuition, housing and meals. But the main objection has always been the resemblance of an NCAA sports scholarship to the indentured servitude of so many orphan kids napped from the British Isles for work in a New World devoid of enough cheap labor.

So we looked into the supposed moral high ground occupied by the Amateurism religion that long ago replaced Christianity in American academia and discovered its roots in the disdain English gentleman had for manual labor and losing athletic contests to the great unwashed with Cockney accents. We found our answers in 2005’s book, All American: The Rise and Fall of Jim Thorpe by Bill Crawford:

The British Amateur Rowing Association in 1878 was one of the first sporting groups to restrict its activities to competitors that had never “been by trade or employment for wages a mechanic, artisan, or labourer or engaged in any menial duty.”

As defined by the London-based Amateur Athletic Club, an amateur was “a gentleman.” The club maintained that the only way to keep … sport pure from the element of corruption” was to restrict competition to amateurs, since the “average workman has no idea of sport for its own sake.”

The vaunted amateurism “ideal” was born as a device to exclude all but the idle rich and their progeny from sports. Given that America was founded based upon all men being created equal by pilgrims and other hard-working colonists, progressive academics and the founders of the modern Olympics puffed up a fiction vaguely alluded to by the “gentlemen” from the U.K., i.e. that the ancient Greeks only competed for the love of the game. It was famously and unjustly used to strip the world’s greatest athlete, Jim Thorpe, of his 2012 Olympic gold medals because he has played semi-pro baseball two summers for the Rocky Mount Railroaders.

Most people who participate in sports do so for the love of the games. But if universities really considered amateurism as cherished a moral principle as they do “diversity”, then wouldn’t they admit patrons free to games much as they do poetry recitals?

We don’t pretend that un-packing the collegiate-amateur construct that has evolved since the first official inter-collegiate football game was played in 1869 between Princeton and Rutgers would be easy. Title IX would probably make the Steve “Ole Ball Coach” Spurrier-suggested, college-funded stipends for athletes too expensive a proposition. Short of repealing that PC Police regulation, we favor eliminating or greatly loosening the restrictions against earned income and the acceptance of gifts by college sports participants.

Yes, it would cause its own problems that could favor wealthy boosters willing to gamble their largess on recruits, but the rich have advantages now and always will. And we don’t support Marxist constructs to prevent the accumulation of wealth any more than we do amateurism constructs meant to protect the “higher classes.”

We have no problem with strictly enforcing academic standards but when it comes to a person’s signature or exercise-honed physique, to restrict the ability of an adult to market their own personal property and labor is to turn the U.S. Constitution on its head.

Go Gamecocks and our even more beloved, Atlanta Braves!

Mike DeVine‘s Right.com

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson