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SPORTS GUY: Giving sports a black eye

They say life begins at 40. Maybe that’s why it took four decades for yours truly to be served up his first black eye.

The life moment occurred roughly two hours before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve when the puck at the Yellowstone Quake hockey game ricocheted into the area where I was standing to photograph the game. It bounced off the boards first, but ultimately wound up bouncing off me as I attempted to evade its flight path.

By game’s end, the region above my left eye had swollen to the point where it appeared I’d been part of that night’s UFC card instead. New Year’s morning was spent popping aspirin for a headache of wholly unintended origins.


I knew I was in trouble late in the weekend when my face started resembling an NFL player on gameday, only with eye-purple instead of eye black. By Monday, sure enough, just in time to return to the office, I was the proud owner of a full-fledged shiner.

Needless to say, my new look for the new year has drawn the amusement of my co-workers, at least one of whom has taken to calling me Raccoon this week. The fact that said black eye just happened to come over New Year’s weekend has also prompted much speculation as to how I really rang in 2011.

Hey, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?

Still, the irony of the moment has not been lost on me. After all, it’s rare that I can claim to have something in common with the NCAA. Yet here we both are sitting with black eyes in the final week of the college football season.

Long after the 2010-2011 college football season comes to a close, the year will live on thanks to a pair of, shall we say, quizzical rulings handed down by the so-called governing body. The precedent set by the NCAA in its handling of Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and, more recently, a handful of Ohio State football players has the potential to redraw the college sports landscape.

First you have Newton, whose father allegedly shopped his son to Mississippi State for a cool $180,000 price tag. Newton ultimately enrolled at Auburn rather than Mississippi State and investigations have failed to prove anyone in the Newton family received so much as a dime, from either Mississippi State or Auburn.

All that being true, the scenario hardly passes the smell test. Nonetheless, Newton remained eligible and appeared in each of Auburn’s games. The NCAA’s rationale in defending this decision — Cam Newton was unaware of his father’s actions.

Really? I wonder how many other parents, grandparents and guardians of possible future NFL millionaires are lining up this recruiting season to “negotiate” unknowingly on behalf of their kids.

Fast forward to the Ohio State situation, where a number of players were suspended for the first five games of next season for selling thousands of dollars in sports memorabilia including, ironically, the sportsmanship award from a bowl game. By contrast, the largest payment received by a player in the scandal that led to SMU’s “death penalty” ruling in the 1980s was $725.

Mysteriously, the Buckeye players remained eligible and played in Tuesday night’s Sugar Bowl, which Ohio State managed to win by a 31-26 final score. The NCAA’s rationale this time around — the players hadn’t been made properly aware of the rules by the school.

Admittedly, I’m not an expert, but I seem to recall a phrase from an introductory law class that pointed out that ignorance of the law is never a defense. In the case of the NCAA this year, ignorance not only seems to be a defense, but an outright exhoneration for all misdeeds.

So here we are — The Sports Guy and the NCAA — both entering 2011 with black eyes. The only differences? I didn’t have to punch myself in order to get mine, and mine will be healed long before the NCAA’s even starts to fade.

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