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Monday, December 13, 2010

ESPN's 30 For 30: Pony Excess

Just finished watching "Pony Excess," the ESPN 30 For 30 documentary about SMU's rogue football program in the 80s that ultimately received the NCAA's "death penalty."  If you haven't seen it, you must.  All those docs are fantastic stuff and this one is no exception. 

Couple things stood out about this one:

First and foremost, I was absolutely appalled by the lack of remorse shown by former head coach Ron Meyer, the involved boosters who seemed only bummed because they got caught, and former players, chiefly Eric Dickerson (and to a lesser extent, Craig James).  The attitude seemed to one of guys reminiscing about getting busted for some wacky college hi-jinks, not what it really was: cheaters cheating. 

These guys learned absolutely nothing and don't seem to accept any responsibility for what they did (Dickerson said he hasn't talked about what he did or didn't do and never will).  Simply staggering.  Instead, they seemed to bemoan "what happened to the program" and how sad it was that Mustang football wasn't back to its "former glory."

What audacity!

Uh, SMU football is where it is because of your actions.

Hey, Eric, you know that 11-0-1 '82 season in which you "won" the SWC title and "won" the Cotton Bowl?  Uh, no you didn't.  You didn't win anything.  Nothing.  Why?  You cheated.  And no, you weren't the best team that year.  Why?  You cheated.  It doesn't count.  If I go play in a golf tournament and "win" it because I shave two (okay - six) strokes off each hole but don't get caught, I didn't win anything, even if they do give me a trophy.  How you and your teammates don't understand that regarding your teams' achievements is pathetic.

And the "everybody did it" excuse doesn't make it any more acceptable.

The second thing that caught my eye were the closing credits.  In an effort to illustrate that paying money to players is still happening, the filmmakers showed a montage of news stories and played audio clips since the SMU scandal of other programs caught or under investigation for cheating.  Most prominently featured were the USC Trojans-slash-Reggie Bush-slash-Pete Carroll.  But they also had clips of 'Bama getting slapped a couple years ago among others.  AND...

They played audio of a reporter saying, to paraphrase, "NCAA investigations arrived at the University of Michigan today" in reference to the recent practice limit violations Michigan was found guilty of.

Now, first things first: Michigan didn't abide by the rules - no matter how minor - and got punished.  We can bitch like Eric Dickerson about "everybody else is doing it" but, my school or not, I have just as little sympathy.  It's like my dad always said when I tried that one as a kid: "I don't care what the other kids are doing, I care about you."

My problem with the Michigan mention in these closing credits is, since they didn't mention WHAT the NCAA folks were doing on the campus, the inference by association with this documentary is that Michigan's transgressions were on par with the SMU (or USC/Bush) violations.

That is a ginormous load of crap.

To in any way tie Michigan practicing an extra 15 minutes a day, or a holding a supervised workout in the summer, to players or their families being paid suitcases of cash-slash-your family getting a house, is really shoddy journalism-slash-filmmaking.

All NCAA violations are not created equal.  So to lump such a practice infraction amongst such cash-for-play examples is dishonest.  It would be like doing a documentary on a carjacking ring then showing a picture of a dude who got a speeding ticket in the credits thus implying "crime is crime."

8 comments:

Andy said...

The thing that stuck with me after watching the show was the "arms race" culture that dominated the SouthWest Conference back in the day. The only programs to escape probation for recruiting violations in the 1980s were Arkansas, Baylor, and Rice.

SMU is the most talked about because of the death penalty, but they were not the only criminal cheaters.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Agreed on all counts.

The thing that stunned me was how after being caught paying players, SMU still didn't stop, they simply agreed to gradually phase out paying their players and then seemed surprised that that wasn't acceptable.

whetstonebuck said...

Just a glimpse into the future of college football.

My only question is..."Are they paying income tax on the money they receive." Fair is fair.

Yost said...

Whet, you joke but bring up a good point. Nailing them on the ol' Capone technicality.

Mikoyan said...

Well, I just hope they dig a little deeper into the Cam Newton thing. But by the time they do, Cam will have his Heisman and NFL millions. And the people that will suffer will be his school and players that had nothing to do with him.

whetstonebuck said...

Mik,

Get with it, dude. It's the American way.

srudoff said...

Pryor is still driving the Trans-am MIchigan gave him even though he decided not to go there.

Vince said...

Hey mikoyan, the SMU mustNgs had a ton of $$$ on the table for several players. the media singling out Cam Newton without sources is a perfect example of shoddy journalism. They also said FBI agents were roaming campus, this could not be further from the truth as this is something they would not bother investigating. Please do not put Auburn University or Cam Newton in the same sentence as an institution that was caught blatantly cheating.