My Correspondence With Yahoo's Charles Robinson

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As mentioned here, this is my Facebook exchange with Yahoo reporter Charles Robinson. I've edited out only the comments from innocent bystanders.

Charles Robinson: Blah blah blah. Tommy and I have had this discussion, but I'll say it one more time. If I'm wasting my time being a "mall cop", Tommy is wasting his time being the curbside preacher, with his endless sermon about how the "real" problem is right in front of our faces.I'm still waiting for Tommy to offer a "real" solution to the problem. Maybe it isn't the media running around and holding people accountable for the rules that are on the books. But I sure as hell know it isn't sitting on my ass and complaining that everyone is missing the point, but never offering a realistic or well-thought solution

CR: And for the record, I like Tommy. He's a far better writer than I'll ever be. I've probably forwarded more of his work than anyone I know. But we don't see eye to eye on this one. And I'll be damned if I watch him spit on good journalists as "mall cops".

CR: The idea that reporters are somehow unaware that the NCAA is a massively flawed institution is absolute myth. Outside of the BCS, there isn't a body in college sports that suffers more criticism and bashing on a national, regional or even a household scale. Tens of thousands of inches are devoted every year to criticizing the NCAA. And there isn't a single rational person who doesn't see at least some issues with how the structure is set up. But there is also an overriding laziness to the argument of many critics, because they fail to actually promote any kind of realistic theories of how to change. Saying "pay them" or "it's an economics issue" just isn't good enough. Particularly when the next breath is to diminish the work of journalists who are out there at least attempting to expose parts of the charade. The world is not an all or nothing place.

Tommy Craggs: I don't want to get into this again, Charles, but I'll tell you what I told Wetzel: What you guys are trying to do — demonstrate the fecklessness of the NCAA by exposing every NCAA violation across the land — is roughly akin to demonstrating the futility of marijuana laws by exposing every dude who packs a bowl on a Friday night. You begin from the assumption, in your reporting if not in your personal beliefs, that the NCAA is a worthwhile institution with flaws. I begin from the assumption that the NCAA should be dynamited. I guess that isn't the Real Adult Solution you're looking for, but I'm not sure how running through the streets like a screeching pack of Carrie Nations, holding up the NCAA bylaws like a King James Bible, is going to change a damn thing.

CR: Thank you, Tommy, for demonstrating my point. Now expand on "dynamiting" the NCAA. I'm curious to know how that would work. I'm guessing that you've given it more thought than just letting total anarchy off the leash and then hoping for the best. Because as we all know, total lawlessness ALWAYS works out well for the disenfranchised that you seem to be fighting so hard to save. So fill me in. I'm breathless with anticipation. Explain to me how wiping out the one governing body in college sports actually makes any of the current problems for the kids or anyone else better. Blasting a system is easy. Having a good idea to realistically replace it is much more difficult. And to this point, I haven't seen a single one of your "browbeat the system" installments actually forward something that solves problems. Maybe you were limited by the infinite space of the internet? Unless, of course, your point is that there really are no "real" problems...only the ones that the NCAA magically invents in order to keep sustaining itself. Point shaving? Fuck it, who cares? Unscrupulous agents swarming in like locusts to devour 18 year old kids? Fuck it, who cares. Coaches arranging to have kids flunked or medical-ed off a roster. Fuck it. Fans? Assholes, all. And the generally likable idea of college athletics not being a whorish carbon copy of the professional ranks? Fuck all of it. Let's just dynamite it and hope for the best.

CR: And one more thought on "holding up the NCAA bylaws like a King James Bible"...there are millions of people who do give a shit about exposing truth and examining the tilt of the playing field...and a scant few who don't. I'm going to let my journalistic values cater to the former.

TC: Dude, Charles. I say this with all due respect: You are more massively in need of a blowjob than anyone I've ever argued with.

CR: Seriously? That's your retort? A blowjob jab? I'm asking you, in all seriousness and respect, to take off your thumbs-down movie critic hat and play architect for a minute and give me a specific infrastructure that solves the problem. I'm all ears. And also, your criticism that we're running around getting the "pot smokers" at every turn is simply ignorant. You're talking about another brand of reporter when you make that point. Take some real time and look a little more closely at the things we've written about the last few years. Far more of the focus is about coaches, institutions and conferences than just the kids. And who represents the flaws of the NCAA more aptly than the coaches, institutions and conferences? Do you understand that? The NCAA isn't some boogeyman living in Indianapolis. Is the specific people we have been writing about...with their names and factual misdeeds. THAT is the NCAA. We could write a million stories about the bullshit we know with individual players. In fact, we almost always pass on those for the larger more systemic issues. For instance, we could have written plenty about Pryor and others for cheap hits. Instead, we focused our time and efforts on the millionaire coach, AD, president and league commissioner. I know you're a smart guy. But for the life of me, I can't figure out why you can't see the difference between what we do and what others are reporting. But if I can't make you see it by now, you likely never will.

TC: Sigh. I really don't want to talk about this anymore, Charles. I'm genuinely sorry about the blowjob crack. It's clear, from the 156,820,208,109 words written above, that you're perfectly capable of blowing yourself. In all this, there's a rather large conceptual failure on your part — evidenced by your inability to grasp that the pot-smokers thing WAS A FREAKING METAPHOR. (I'll repeat: You think you're exposing the fecklessness of the NCAA and its rules regime by exposing every NCAA violation across the land. This is like exposing the folly of our drug laws by exposing every drug violation across the land. Readers don't look at Yahoo!'s Reggie Bush coverage and think, "Well, shit, the problem is structural and related to the bad incentives of an underground economy!" They read it and think, "Reggie Bush is a crook.") You're covering a banana republic and wondering why it's not better about enforcing its laws. I think you want me to offer pragmatic, adult, incrementalist solutions to fixing the NCAA. And my point is that pragmatic, adult, incrementalist solutions only further consecrate the fundamentally insane notion that higher education and big-time spectator sports have anything to say to one another.

TC: The rest of the world organizes its sub-pro sports according to a club model that seems to work well for a lot of people. This model sidesteps both the unsustainable pretense of amateurism and the idea that sports serve any pedagogical purpose whatsoever, the twin animating forces behind every story you guys have written. No, it's not skeevy agents. It's not greedy players. It's not administrators or coaches or bowl organizers or whatever bogeyman is being trotted out today. It's those two ideas I mentioned: that 1.) the workers in a multi-million dollar national business concern don't deserve a fair wage; and that 2.) big-time sports can conform to an academic mission. The NCAA is founded precariously on those two pipe dreams, and so is the black market you and your pals have made a career out of covering. Nowhere in anything you've written, that I've read, do you say that. Nowhere in anything you've written, that I've read, do you use the words "black market economy." Nowhere in anything you've written, that I've read, do you suggest that this thing is so busted top to bottom that by all rights the NCAA should be nothing but a pile of bleached bones in a desert, getting picked at by a flock of tort lawyers. That's a massive conceptual failure, as I say, and one that has enormous consequences for how we talk about the issue.

CR: Another blowjob jab. You're such an infant. You get challenged by the people you take shots at and you go straight for the lowest common denominator. And you apparently can't read. Because my point is that we aren't exposing every NCAA violation across the land. As I said before, we could do that, but we don't. Our coverage has largely orbited around larger systemic problems beyond just the kids (coaches, institutional failings, conference powerbrokers, etc.) - and yes, you're right...we don't agree on the NCAA...I think despite its obvious problems that it is better that it exists than having no governing body at all. As for how readers interpret what we write, yes, there will always be those who decipher it in the laziest possible way...just like people who read about the SEC and Wall Street and surmise that "corporations are all crooked". But there is also a segment that understands that we are exposing larger fundamental kinks, and not just "pot smoking" violators. For you to suggest that every single reader sees it in the most simplistic possible way is your opinion. I don't agree.I sit here and watch you take shots at people for going out and at least diving into some part of the problem and exposing things that others want hidden. You call it "making a career" out of a black market economy. I call it covering the world that we live in, and exposing the flaws that exist within it. In fact, if I wasn't out here exposing the hypocrisy that exists in the first place, you wouldn't have shit to say about it, because the glaring flaws wouldn't be constantly shoved into the public's face. You and "your pals" wouldn't be able to "make a career" out of playing professional bitchy contrarian witness. I'll stick to actually going out and exposing the shit I know is happening, while you sit and take shots at me for it. Enjoy the warmth inside your classroom, professor.

TC: I enjoy these lectures on elevating the discourse from the guy who opened this argument, "Blah blah blah." I think we're done here, yes? Godspeed, Charles. I'll continue to admire everything you write that's not about the NCAA, and I'll continue to marvel at the dimensions and fine wood grain of the stick you're shoving up your ass.

CR: Spoken like a true self-fellating dickwad. Good luck in your endlessly too-cool-for-school endeavors, Tommy Craggs.

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