Jim Brown

Ah, the wisdom found in the New York Times. America’s newspaper (at least according to them) seems to find a reason every week to denigrate the backwards homefolks that populate Louisiana. Certainly some debasement is justified, particularly when it comes to disparaging the state’s political establishment. But there’s one area that is sacrosanct and off limits to even the least well-informed news editor. Whatever you do or write, don’t mess with LSU football.

Tiger fans were plummeted sometime back by the Times in an editorial page column, accusing Tiger fans of looking on football players as little more than mascots. The author is particularly chagrinned over LSU aficionados merely wanting to be entertained without any concern for the player as a person. “Mascots may have occasion feelings of affection, but they aren’t part of the community they serve. No one is inviting Tigers into their home, no matter how much they like the idea of their ferocity on the football field,” said the Times.

So if you don’t have some of the black players over for dinner, you must be racist, or so the article concludes. I guess I must plead guilty, since I’ve never had a player over for a meal. But I’ve never had an LSU or Southern professor, black or white, over either. Or for that matter, I guess I’m remorseful in not inviting my preacher, my CPA, my legislator, my barber, or my doctor. I would invite LeBron James or Shaquille O’Neal, both NBA superstars, if I thought they would come. No white basketball players on my list though because, what’s the movie called: White guys Can’t Jump?

The Times article is chagrined over the fact that university football players are exploited. “College players are uncompensated.” But that’s not so. Players at LSU receive full scholarships including room and board, medical care, plus on average an additional $4000 a year to cover incidentals. And then the top players get a shot at the big bucks of professional football.

The commentary goes on to reference a convoluted 12-year-old study that concludes judges who are LSU graduates are overcome with racial disparities when it comes to sentencing during football season. When LSU is nationally ranked, so the article concludes, and loses a game it was favored to win, Louisiana judges often suffer “emotional trauma generated by the upset loss that seems to fall on black defendants.” These sentence disparities are caused, now get this, because judges “are working through their own negative feelings” over the LSU loss. That’s what the article says, I kid you not.

These spurious conclusions from the Times article are by Erin C. Tarver an assistant professor of philosophy at Oxford College of Emory University, and titled: College Football Is Here. But What Are We Really Cheering? Ms. Tarver has determined that it is us vs. them, and that football players are merely gladiators put on the field to amuse the university’s alumni.

Sure, college football has its share of problems. The financial costs have grown way out of proportion, and only the big-time college football programs are profitable. All players, black and white, place a major physical toll on their bodies with scars and injuries that can last a lifetime. Academic standards are often compromised for college athletes.

The University of North Carolina, my alma mater, is currently being investigated over a major cheating scandal. But these problems affect black and white athletes alike.

It’s disingenuous to blame the fans and judges for perceived problems that affect every player out on the field as well as the sport as a whole. We can only wish that changing the rules of football could be the only barrier to releasing racial tension.

In the meantime, I’m inviting Coach O and the whole Tiger team, both black and white players, over for Sunday dinner. Geaux Tigers.

Jim Brown is a former Commissioner of Insurance, Secretary of State and state senator from Ferriday. His past columns can be read at www.jimbrownusa.com.

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