Clarett puts the NFL in an unenviable position

Just as the Lebron James controversy was ending with James’ selection as the number one pick in the NBA draft only weeks after graduating high school, the Clarett controversy began. Clarett, suspended by Ohio State University for the entire 2003-2004 football season, has apparently approached the NFL about entering the 2004 draft. Currently, the NFL’s policy states that a player may not enter the NFL Draft until he is at least three years removed from high school.

Clarett, who violated numerous NCAA rules involving stolen merchandise from a car he “borrowed” from a local dealership and has been accused of receiving improper academic benefits for his football prowess, has few options when it comes to football. He can stay in school at Ohio State, transfer to another Div. I school (where he would be forced to sit out an additional year after this year), transfer to a Div. I-AA school (where he could play next season) or attempt to turn pro and play in either the CFL or NFL.

The NFL seems to be the most likely scenario, but only if Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will bend the rules for the talented running back. I think it’s time for the NFL to change its ancient rule, set into effect in 1990, and allow underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft. Every other professional sports league allows for players to be drafted directly out of high school, so why is the NFL so stubborn? Critics argue that the NFL game would be too physically demanding on 18- and 19- year-olds, but people made that same argument with regards to the NBA, and look how Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant (ugh) and Kevin Garnett turned out.

As we saw with the Willis McGahee situation last year, NFL teams are willing to take risks on players that have potential. If teams do not think Clarett is ready for the NFL, they won’t pick him. If they think he’s ready to compete, he may well go number one. As many journalists around the country have suggested, why not let the open-market settle the controversy?

I would give the NFL this one piece of advice: if you do bend the rules for Clarett, be prepared for the floodgates to open. And if you don’t allow Clarett to enter this year’s draft, be prepared for a lawsuit. The lesser of the two evils for the NFL is obvious to me, but the best decision for student-athletes is a different (and often disregarded) ballgame altogether.

Playoff Fever

Playoff Fever

If you aren’t jumping out of your seat every time the Red Sox play or checking the standings every morning, you aren’t a real Bostonian. If you aren’t excited about the prospects of the Cubs making a chase for the Pennant, you aren’t a real Chicagoan. It’s playoff fever, and it’s coming to a ballpark, a newspaper and a television near you. Will this be the year the Red Sox say goodbye to the curse of the Babe? Will this be year the Cubs’ storied franchise finally brings home World Series rings to Wrigley Field? Or will the usual suspects (ie: Yankees, Braves) make this year like most others?

I, for one, am totally ecstatic about the possibilities of a Red Sox-Cubs World Series. It has the potential to be the single greatest match-up in baseball history. If anyone thinks there are more dedicated fans than the ones that pack Wrigley Field and Fenway Park night in and out, I’ve got two words for you: “Yankees Suck.” Massholes everywhere know the chant, the feelings behind it, and most importantly, the meaning behind it. “Yankees Suck” is the frustration of being reminded every day for almost 90 years that your team has not won a World Series since 1918, yet your arch-rivals seem to always buy their way to championship after championship. From “Yankees Suck” came our very own Amherst version, the always popular “Williams Sucks” slogan.

Just as “Williams Sucks” unifies Lord Jeffs everywhere, “Yankees Suck” is a unifying slogan for Red Sox fans everywhere, a chant heard around the country in every ballpark from Boston to Seattle. It’s not only heard during baseball games, mind you. You can hear it at Patriots games, Celtics games, even sitting on the subway or watching a music concert. And not just in Red Sox-friendly areas. Just 10 days ago, “Yankees Suck” chants were audible at Yankee Stadium!

With two weeks left in the baseball season, the Red Sox sit in the midst of a wild, wild-card race. With one of the best statistically hitting teams in baseball history, including five MVP candidates (Manny, Nomar, Bill Mueller, Trot Nixon and my personal pick, Jason Varitek), the Sox are as strong as ever. The starting pitching is starting to come around, and the only question mark remains the bullpen. Baseball historians often claim that defense and pitching is what wins championships. This year Boston will finally have the chance to find out if there is any truth to that claim.

“Yankees Suck!”