Ethics Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Sports Columnist Norman Chad On “March Madness”


“People often ask me, “Why do you ignore college basketball?” Really? That’s like asking a vegan, “Why do you ignore cattle farms?…Why wouldn’t I ignore college basketball? They just round up the usual suspects every year, and, believe you me, these people are awfully suspect. The game is rotten at its core; it’s only cheating if you get caught, and if you get caught, you’re only liable if you’re losing.”

—- Sports columnist Norman Chad, on why he doesn’t follow the NCAA basketball tournament.

To which I reply, “Exactly.”

As Chad notes in his column, big-time college basketball is pure dribbling corruption. The players are exploited and tossed aside, few of them graduating and most leaving with little real education. The athletic programs warp school priorities and eat up institution resources that should be devoted to the curriculum,  the typically coaches are paid more than any three faculty members combined, and they teach their charges that cheating pays. Continues Chad in his inimitable style:

But the players don’t bother me – they are like cattle, used for two percent milk and tenderloins until their services are exhausted. It’s the coaches that bother me – the See No Evil Hear No Evil Do No Evil Block/Charge No Evil shim sham flimflam riffraff sitting on the bench in those fine suits with their fat wallets.

Jim Boeheim? A bum. John Calipari? Bum. Rick Pitino? Bum. Roy Williams? Bum. If these fellas are earning big paychecks from institutions of higher learning, institutions of higher learning must be in a different business than they once were.

Boeheim and Co. run the whole shooting match, and no matter what they do, you can’t run ‘em out of town unless they miss March Madness three straight times. Which brings us to Larry Brown. He’s at his third college coaching stop – UCLA, Kansas and now SMU – and he’s three-for-three for NCAA infractions. If there were a Recruiting Violators Anonymous program, he’d be John Calipari’s sponsor!


And yes, it bothers me that President Obama goes out of his way to endorse this cultural crack.  His rationalizations are no worse than anyone else’s—“But it’s only once a year, everybody does it, and it’s fun!”—but colleges are obscenely expensive and doing a terrible job at educating, the obsession with high-profile basketball is part of the problem, black students are disproportionately harmed by the system, nobody seriously disputes any of this, and he’s the President. How brave, productive and transforming it might be if instead of choosing brackets, Obama publicly condemned the corrupt system that turns educational institutions into the the NFL’s and NBA’s minor leagues, and called for immediate reform.

Nah—why be a leader when it’s only once a year, everybody does it, and it’s fun?

No, college basketball isn’t as reprehensible as football, where fans become accessories to the maiming of healthy young brains for corporate profits, but that  just makes it the perfect embodiment of Rationalization #22: “It’s not the worst thing.”

It’s true, it’s not as if NCAA basketball kills anyone….you know, like the NFL.

It just corrupts everyone and everything connected with it.

32 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Sports Columnist Norman Chad On “March Madness”

  1. Long ago I gave up on college B-Ball and the pros? Call it the Allen Iverson punk effect that this former Celtic season ticket holder (1966-69) and long time ticket buyer and gym rat gave up on the sport. For every Tim Duncan, there are 20 punks playing the game. I use to be able to name every roster player and give you a pile of information. Now? I can name a few C’s and a few others. I have not even been to the “New Garden.” My old gym rat friends tell be it’s my “racism” surfacing.

    I love it when other countries now clean our clocks on occasion in international play.

    The March Madness? I can’t name any team in the top 20. If I did it would just be a guess with the usual suspects.

  2. What’s March Madness to me; what’s the NCAA to me; what’s basketball to me; what’s NFL to me; what’s NBA to me; what’s the NHL to me, what baseball to me; etc, etc?

    I didn’t mind playing some basketball, football and soccer in High School but that’s long, long ago history. The real answer to the above questions is none of it means a damn thing to me anymore, I don’t watch, I don’t attend, I just don’t give a damn about any of it? I do like it when sports programs get publicly tarnished for the things they do.

    If people stopped watching games on TV and going to games the money would dry up and it would all just go away.

  3. Asking a sports columnist why he’s given up on college basketball is nothing like asking a vegan why he’s given up on cattle farms. Seems like an appropriate question. He has a good answer, but it is an odd one for a sports columnist.

      • Someday, Tex, you must tell the tragic tale of your encounter with the voluble, vegetating vegan who violated your viands.

        • I’ve been visited by the veteran voluminous vegan, who would vividly and vociferously recount their valorous vow. It’s almost like having forsaken the joy of protein, they have to either convert you to their cult and make you as miserable as they are, or tell you how morally superior they are, you filthy carnivore.

          • Okay. That’s two. So I have to believe there is at least one vexatious villain vaunting his verminous vegetative values on unsuspecting …. (I almost said “uh” here, it belonged here, but Jack’s rules are rules, so…) people. V’s notwithstanding, 36 years ago, I, a product of meat-and-potatoes, fatsugarsalt-loaded large-plate, second-helping, washed down with … never mind — landed in an alternate universe of happy people. No one lectured me. People quietly went about their shopping and cooking and if I went to their homes served me meat and potatoes without demur or comment, just as you would refrain from serving a guest something you knew was not to their liking. They paid no attention to my BLT while they dove into their rich pastas, spicy tortilla fillings, corn chowder, or a carrot cake with cashew-lemon frosting. Restaurants would have veggie or vegan items on the menu without cute names and not formed to be anything but themselves.

            Admittedly, at least three decades prior to that, I had lived for three years in the interior villages of South India, strictly Hindu vegan (though it wasn’t called that, just “food”) and gotten used to flavors, textures and extreme heat. Returning home, it took about five hours to return to a non-vegetative state. The same thing happened on returning from Japan: back to the hamburgers, fries and cola. So, it wasn’t a hardship to order a curry or chomp on crisp tempura — it was, in fact, a treat. The curries were the same (temped down some), but the ingredients were, well, nurtured in soil that hadn’t been denitrogenated after 3,000 years of steady use.

            Then three things happened: a veggie friend turned me on to my first cracked crab and artichoke; I moved into an apartment whose window leant me access to the fruit of a Meyer lemon tree, and the nearest grocery store sported eighteen kinds of fruit, and almost as many varieties of farm-fresh vegetable. Chinatown had fish that flopped around until they were wrapped to go. Like many people in the neighborhood, I had simply changed the old nutrition graphic by degrees. Gradually, one new leaf introduced into the iceberg salad at a time, the meat portions got smaller, the fried foods got crispier, less greasy, more often surrounding vegetables, until one day a few years ago, I found myself out with visiting firemen who verbally attacked me for not taking full advantage of their “treat” at the House of Prime Rib (I had a children’s plate and asked to take half of it home, (though I’d scarfed down helpings of their deceptively feather-light Yorkshire pudding).

            They were positively abusive toward what they called Sick Ghost-blooded Hippie Freaks. I pointed out that I was the only one who ordered rare-as-you-can to their medium(gray), but that didn’t help. So I quietly went over the people they’d met the preceding week: healthy, sturdy professionals all who, I pointed out, were also: a rugby player, three regular marathon runners, a man whose family climbs a fourteener every year for fun, a woman science teacher who moonlights as a personal trainer, and my oldest friend who at 80 last year tramped the Yorkshire Dales from one end to the other as he does for six weeks annually. Every one a semi-(like me) or full veggie or vegan (the Rugby player).

            They called me a liar. I invited them to inquire. I didn’t see them again for the rest of their stay. All that anger about someone else’s eating habits. You’d think vegans ranked with cannibals. My dear, most respected texagg04 and Humble Talent, really!

            • “How great it would be, he said to me, to live in meatless poverty; some meat? Perhaps. A little grease? Please. But amid a sea of green. A plate of rice, a little spice, and some dough would be so very nice.

              Meanwhile, for Humble’s take, gravy a lake and a porterhouse steak; medium rare perhaps, still mooing please, preferably still chewing grass. And on his plate, (It showed up late), a cob of corn with butter a date.

              Seriously, you commie, eat some bacon. 😉

            • Behind a shield of health as important,
              Thou hast vowed gustation abhorrent,
              Thou savest one creature’s life,
              Thus avoid moral strife,
              Yet a new perspective is warrant.
              I enjoy most carnivorous victual,
              And I find thy diet heretical,
              Thou hast abstained from meat,
              so to thee I entreat,
              A proposition quite unethical:
              I give to thee mathematics disturbing-
              I pose a balance of animals unnerving-
              For each one thou set free,
              I shall eat three,
              Now that would be mutually concerning!
              For by average we kill half plus one.
              Though delightful and enfatteningly fun,
              The body-count would fly,
              And in summary be sky high.
              So to thee, something must be undone!
              In that scheme we consume three to save one.
              So, Please rethink thy plan to eat none.
              For each one thou eat now,
              I pledge an identical vow,
              Thus through cooperation we free one!

            • Behind a shield of health as important,
              Thou hast vowed gustation abhorrent,
              …Thou savest one creature’s life,
              …Thus avoid moral strife,
              Yet a new perspective is warrant.

              I enjoy most carnivorous victual,
              And I find thy diet heretical,
              …Thou hast abstained from meat,
              …so to thee I entreat,
              A proposition quite unethical:

              I give to thee mathematics disturbing-
              I pose a balance of animals unnerving-
              …For each one thou set free,
              …I shall eat three,
              Now that would be mutually concerning!

              For by average we kill half plus one.
              Though delightful and enfatteningly fun,
              …The body-count would fly,
              …And in summary be sky high.
              So to thee, something must be undone!

              In that scheme we consume three to save one.
              So, Please rethink thy plan to eat none.
              …For each one thou eat now,
              …I pledge an identical vow,
              Thus through cooperation we free one!

              • You are not listening. (1) You are not being judged or lectured to. Eat as you like. (2) As I thought I explained, I/we eat porterhouse, well, t-bone for me (when we can afford it); the “B” in BLT is what it always was, though the tomatoes and the mayo are way tastier (3) I’m heading toward 80 – a child’s plate at House of Prime Rib is about 10 ounces of blood rare beef, quite enough for two meals (if you’re lucky, you can get one of the bones to gnaw the sweetest meat off); (4) two-handed corncobs off the back of a truck at Embarcadero farmer’s market, picked that a.m.,, goes like lightening, and the huitlacoche with it if you can fight off the restauranteurs. The corncobs go with butter and salt* (as does popcorn), the huitlacoche is sauteed with garlic, onions and poblano chile strips and wrapped in fresh corn tortillas. (5) Restrictions, yes – mainly the same ones you’ll get from your doctors when you get older (if you’re not already ignoring them). Cut down on the fat and the salt (most of that is canned or non fresh-frozen… easy to lose the taste for that when you have the real thing. (6) The veggies and the fruits just take up more room on the plate, and the variety of flavors and textures make the meals sooooo much better. (7) Vegans have access to more variety of foods than anyone else. The rest of us take advantage of both worlds.

                I was talking to a (strict) vegetarian friend about your upset and abhorrence of non-meat-eaters and brought up the “don’t kill animals” lecture and he looked at me blankly. “Well, sure, I guess, but most humans are meat eaters, aren’t they? We just don’t need that much and they [the animals] should be taken care of. The only arguments I ever heard were about crowded chickens and this land use vs. cattle range, and they made sense, but I’m vegetarian for myself, not any other reason – maybe that’s the wrong word, since I eat so much other stuff, you know breads and pizza and baked potato and birthday cake, latkes with sour cream….” I told him to shut up and we went for ice cream cones.

                Lower your antlers, Tex, LT. It’s your own fault you’re missing out because some extremist with a bug in his ear started buzzing in yours. As far as lecturers go, prosyletizers of any kind get booted off my porch, so to speak. Otherwise, chacun à son goût.

  4. Long-time lurker, first-time poster. I’m not really a sports fan (makes it easy to boycott the NFL), so I’m not really familiar with the issues around the NCAA, but I’m curious. Is the issue here a culture of cheating within the NCAA, or is there more to it?

    • 1. The obscene amount of money diverted to the sports programs
      2. The fact that the athletes are not students
      3. The deception that the students are getting an education
      4. The widespread corruption by coaches, with few consequences and huge salaries.
      5. Gambling
      6. The connections to pro basketball.

      • 2) athletes are ultimately entertainers and there are advanced degrees related to performing arts. Would you have less of an issue if college athletes were pursuing bachelors of kinesiology with an emphasis on basketball (or whatever their sport was)?

              • There are all sorts of degrees that are worthless, and I would say most entertainment-related degrees are among them. Once, and why this is no longer the case is a long story, my alma mater regarded journalism and theater as pursuits best learned by doing, and perhaps addressed in post graduate studies, and thus did not offer degrees and programs in either, but lots of well-funded clubs and organizations.

                There are no degrees in “basketball.”

                • “There are no degrees in “basketball.””

                  Hence my initial commentary. Merely bracketing the discussion. For a consistent standard, one would either elevate various sports to a type of kinesiology degree track OR demote the other entertainment related pursuits and make them no longer degree worthy (or I should say quit pretending like they are degree worthy).

  5. I’ve been trying to read the post but there’s this really obtrusive, repetitive blob on the side of the page that has come to be a mote in my eye. If you can’t get rid of it; please put a burlap sack over its head.

  6. I find the “athletic directors” and other administrative place holders even more awful than the coaches. The coaches are the field bosses but the ADs are the plantation owners. And of course the university presidents are the oligarchs of the Confederacy.

    • And yes, the media are to blame. They’ve turned the NCAA tournement into “news” as they have the weekend earnings for movies. Dumb.

      As for our president, he’s an adolescent in too many ways. It’s hip to be cool.

  7. Time magazine published a list of the teams in the tournament, along with the graduation rates for their players. In general, the rates were phenomenal, much higher than the graduation rate for students overall. Even a notorious basketball factory like Kentucky showed an 89% graduation rate.

    I’ve got a deep suspicion that these numbers are phony. If they’re not, then the sweatshop/exploitation narrative isn’t quite true. I wonder if anybody here knows whether these numbers are being deceitfully manipulated and, if so, how?

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