Cicero famously once said “Beware the questions you ask for the answers you may receive.” I asked the question, I wonder what it would be like to review Steve Robertson’s trash book about the Ole Miss investigation?, and the answer is decidedly a resounding, not enjoyable in the least, Jim.
Someone knife me.
Before we begin, let me first thank Bunkie Perkins for pointing out that FLIM FLAM is now on Amazon, and that all of you who have chimed in over there and rated the book are the absolute best. Especially this enterprising individual, who was inspired to write some truly inspired poetry about the book. Keep those reviews and ratings coming, because reading them sustain us in an otherwise deeply troubled world.
I’m devoting a single installment to this particular chapter because up to this point chapter four is the second-longest chapter of the pile. It’s also a vigorous endorsement of the NCAA’s regulation and enforcement armature, and it’s a moralizing monument to Doing Things The Right Way, which Ole Miss clearly did not. Apparently. Chapter four is the driest, most depressing, preachy, stupefying thing I’ve ever read, and I teach Greek and Latin literature.
Hand to heart, chapter four is piously titled “NCAA Enforcement 101.” I personally think “Hey, Ole Miss, knock it off already” would have been more compelling and funny, but we’re dealing with the least compelling and least funny personage in the state of Mississippi not named Phil Bryant. Chapter four is an extended and fawning interview with a man named David Didion, who worked as an NCAA cop from 1987 to 2013, and is currently the Associate Director of Athletics for Compliance at Auburn.
Now, Steve isn’t going to tell you this, and I’m glad that Gray Hardison is pissing out of the ship, because he was the one who pointed this out. David Didion — former NCAA enforcement hawk — was hired at Auburn a few months before, um, Bruce Pearl was hired at Auburn to be the Tigers’ basketball coach. Bruce Pearl, of course, was still under an NCAA show-cause when Auburn hired him, so he was technically disallowed from coaching collegiate basketball athletes for the first five months of his tenure at the helm on the Plains. Again: Steve mentions none of this.
Here’s David Didion, NCAA watchdog, who hired a coach with a fucking show-cause sitting on top of him:
Many have opined that the NCAA enforcement staff picks on certain conferences and schools, while other programs are protected and not subjected to the same set of rules.
AWKWARD. We’re not disputing Didion’s claim here that the NCAA is, uh, unfair (?), but rather that Robertson decided to include this quote in the first place. One, let’s hone in on that word “opine,” because it enjoys a wonderful etymological history that even the Romans laughed at. The Latin verb opinor, “to suppose, think, decide,” exists in the middle voice, so that the subject of “to opine” is also somehow the object of the verb “to opine.” It’s entirely solipsistic. This entire document, FLIM FLAM, is a masturbatory exercise of self-validation. Robertson literally poses with his arms crossed on the back cover of this trifle. The NCAA is right and correct and moral because the NCAA is right and correct and moral. They say so. My head just popped off my neck.
Let’s move on, but also let’s take a step backward, because this awful trash does just that nearly every page.
Didion has devoted his working life to fair play and providing a level playing field for athletes of all types who choose to compete on the collegiate level.
I don’t know how many times I can scream this into the void that is Steve Robertson’s ear canals, but A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD IS NOT COLLEGIATE ATHLETICS. COLLEGIATE ATHLETICS ARE CURRENTLY STRUCTURED TO FIGHT AGAINST WAGE LAWS. COLLEGIATE ATHLETICS IN THEIR CURRENT STATE SUPPRESS WAGES INTO ZERO, AND DISPROPORTIONATELY HARM BLACK ATHLETES. FAIR PLAY MEANS NOTHING IN THIS CONTEXT, BECAUSE THE POWERS THAT BE ALWAYS ALREADY HOLD THE CARDS, AND THEY WILL PUNISH YOU WITH THOSE CARDS. FAIR PLAY HERE IS A DISINGENUOUS TALKING POINT THAT CLOUDS OVER PLAYERS’ POVERTY, BODILY SUFFERING IN NEED OF AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE, AND BASIC EVERYDAY FOOD.
You wanna defend the NCAA in 2017? Go fuck yourself, you un-human. Here’s Steve doing just that thing.
At the end of the day, providing a level playing field is job one for the NCAA. Rules are in place for a reason. If you break them, you should be punished.
The NCAA has a responsibility to every program to punish offending programs. There are violations at every school, most unintentional, that never make the newspaper, but they still have to be reported, and in some cases sanctions have to be levied.
When it comes to [Ole Miss’] case, the overwhelming allegations stem from willful disobedience.
Rules are in place for a reason. Sure. But these rules are in the first place immoral and inhumane and unethical, so you’re arguing for ... un-humanity? Welcome to club Animal Farm, you dumb fucking dolt. Animal Farm ain’t about animals, by the way, and I know you went to Mississippi State.
Let’s turn back a few pages into the meat of the chapter, which more or less concerns itself with the NCAA enforcement process. This is Steve’s cop drama, his capital J journalism, and one can easily imagine him sitting back after penning this inhuman treatise and feeling quite self-satisfied. Here’s Steve and Didion on how NCAA law — sorry, NCAA “law” — works.
There is no negotiation between the [Committee on Infractions] and the school. There is no plea bargain. There is no chance to turn state’s evidence in hopes of lessening sanctions ... There aren’t many friends in the room [of a COI hearing] and unlike a court of law, there is no presumption of innocence.
This, here, is the epitome of a kangaroo court — which you, educated and humane and lawful readers that you are, all know — and Steve straight-up endorses the whole sordid structure. As I said, this entire chapter is in apologia for The Rules, for the NCAA — which is oppressive and restrictive and retrograde — and Steve here houses himself as a fan of denying young workers compensation for labor expended. He hates college football players, even the ones that play for CLANGA, because he thinks them less than human. He considers them subject to arcane and ancient NCAA rules that have no place in 21st century society. NCAA athletics hold “an unmistakable whiff of the plantation,” according to Taylor Branch, and Steve Robertson has no idea that line of thought even exits.
I’ve put this off until the last because it’s the singularly most infuriating thing I’ve read in this tripe up to this point. Read this.
My quest for knowledge centered on the investigative process from start to finish behind the closed doors of the NCAA. Just how does an enforcement case begin? Who decides which cases to pursue and what does that process entail? (emphasis added)
THESE QUESTIONS ARE NEVER ANSWERED. EVER. How! — just fucking HOW! — does an NCAA investigation get initiated? Who or what or how or why does information get passed to an asshole like David fucking Didion to set off an NCAA investigation? Does an angry rival send in half-evidence of recruiting violations? Does Nick Saban just call you up one day? WHAT INITIATES AN NCAA INVESTIGATION? It’s never addressed.
Steve, you have here asked a few very good, important questions — I’ll grant you — and you don’t even come close to addressing them. You could have dropped into the very interesting story of what initiates an NCAA investigation — you’re talking to a former investigator, after all — but you don’t. Instead, you launch off into an eight-page transcription of your phone call with David fucking Didion, who looks like a PE coach at an Iowa middle school with a worse haircut.
Let’s stop here. Lucan was 25 when he opened his veins in a bathtub in Rome and I need to talk to students about that, which seems more important than Steve’s book which can’t even correctly write “wrongdoing” as one word (pg. 35). I’m going to go read Lucan and feel even worse about myself.