Twining’s Take on the week in sports; Miami scandal, preseason violence, Little League baseball

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I watched the movie “Limitless” this past week and never thought a movie about extreme drug addiction would provide a great theme for this week’s Twining’s Take, but it did. In the movie, Bradley Cooper’s character discovers a pill that gives him the ability to use his entire brain. This allows him to excel in all situations, those that are beneficial and those that present danger. Cooper uses these drug-induced abilities to his advantage and gains global recognition while cheating along the way and narrowly avoiding harsh circumstances.

Although Cooper’s character is able to skirt punishment, the same outcome is quite unlikely for the scandal-ridden University of Miami football program and the two suspects involved in shootings Saturday evening following the Oakland Raiders-San Francisco 49ers preseason game.

Before we delve into these two serious topics, I just want you to know it isn’t all doom and gloom in the sporting world right now. The Little League World Series (LLWS) is in full swing and while televising the LLWS is often a controversial topic, for the first time I can see the merit to the two-week broadcast.

Hurricane hits Miami athletics

Clearly the recent transgressions at the University of Miami have done little to actually help the football or basketball programs achieve success during the past eight years. The football team’s last bowl win was a 21-20 victory against Nevada in the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl. After winning four straight conference titles between 2000 and 2003, Miami left the Big East, joined the ACC and haven’t won a conference title since.

It was in 2001 when convicted-felon Nevin Shapiro first infiltrated Miami athletics, joining as a living scholar. The living scholar program, approved by the NCAA, allowed Shapiro to sponsor back-up freshman running back Willis McGahee by paying his scholarship. As Shapiro’s first connection to the Miami football program, he played it by the book: occasional contact through a home-cooked meal and a few forgettable conversations at team outings. Although Shapiro kept his relationship with McGahee on the straight-and-narrow, it provided deeper access into the football program.

Shapiro’s recent admissions, published Monday by Yahoo sports after an 11-month investigation that included 100 hours of prison interviews, paints a grim picture of the future of Miami football. 72 football and basketball players allegedly received impermissible benefits from Shapiro, including players on current Miami rosters, quarterback Jacory Harris being the most high-profile.

Jacory Harris, Miami Football

How then does the NCAA punish Miami? If it’s true that seven coaches, including three from the basketball program, were aware of the rules violations, then the NCAA would be expected to drop a heavier hammer on Miami than on USC. In a twist of irony, Paul Dee, who was the General Counsel and Athletic Director at Miami until 2008 was on the NCAA’s Committee of Infractions that penalized USC in 2010.

When I think about the NCAA’s current investigation, two things come to mind. One, there is no way the NCAA can allow Dee to be involved in the investigation. In fact, he should be fired given the fact that Dee had been at Miami since 1993 before resigning. Two, NCAA President Mark Emmert should use this opportunity to deliver a message.

The NCAA will not tolerate blatant cheating, and those involved will be penalized to the full extent of the law. At least Emmert acknowledged the ‘Death Penalty’ as a possibility – something the NCAA hasn’t used since Southern Methodist University in 1987.

Given the never-ending scandals involved in collegiate athletics, it’s become increasingly difficult for the NCAA to penalize schools. You can take away wins, or trophies or scholarships but it’s hard to deliver a punishment that really sends a message

The only way to really penalize Miami football is to cut the program for one year. Yes, it is drastic, but Miami has been one of the most scandal-ridden football programs since the early 1990s. As long as Miami football exists, scandal will permeate the program. Nip it in the bud; cut it off at the source; eliminate the program for one year and eliminate the scandal.

NFL Preseason Violence

On Saturday night, following an NFL preseason game in San Francisco between the Raiders and 49ers, two fans were shot at Candlestick Park. Police also said a 26-year-old San Rafael man was beaten and knocked unconscious inside a men’s restroom during the game. Then, after the game, two men in their 20s were shot in the parking lot. One of the victims, reportedly wearing a “F— the Niners” T-shirt, was hospitalized after being shot several times in the stomach.

These acts are disgusting, especially considering it took place following a preseason game that holds no significance whatsoever. And although regular season or playoff games hold more significance, violence should never be tolerated at sporting events.

Candlestick Park in San Francisco

Earlier this year, following the opening game of the season between the World Champion San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Giants fan Brian Stow was brutally beaten in the parking lot and is still fighting for his life.

It took prosecutors months to arrest the right suspects and the incident called into question the security and safety of Dodger Stadium as well as all sport stadiums throughout the country. Hopefully the search for the suspects involved in the recent shootings is quicker and more efficient.

What’s especially disappointing about these incidents is that it could signal the end of this long preseason rivalry. 49er CEO Jed York said he will recommend that the NFL call off the annual preseason battle between the 49ers and Raiders indefinitely. In addition, the 49er organization banned tailgating in parking lots following the opening kickoff.

It’s infuriating that fans are so stupid and bull-headed that they can’t refrain from the desire to hurt fans of other teams. It is inconceivable why some people feel they are allowed to use violence to “prove” their team is better than another.

I know nearly everybody who has attended a sporting event has seen some act of aggression from one fan to another. Remember, just as it’s up to the players to keep rivalries civil on the field, it’s up to the fans to keep them civil off the field as well.

Little League World Series

Every summer, ESPN spends two weeks promoting and broadcasting the exceptional talents of 11- and 12-year-old baseball players. Thrusting these emotionally immature adolescents into the national spotlight during high pressure situations remains a controversial topic.

However, after watching a couple games during the past week, I think I finally understand why the television of the LLWS is so important to American sports.

Not only does ESPN televise the LLWS, they also television semifinals and finals of junior baseball leagues and the Little League Softball World Series. While watching a softball game Saturday afternoon, the announcer noted that many of the 11- and 12-year-old girls watched the Women’s College World Series and listed Arizona State, this year’s champs, as their favorite team.

2010 Little League World Series

When I was younger, specifically Little League age, I loved watching the LLWS because I always wished I could one-day make it to that level. Later, when I grew up and moved past Little League, I took more of an interest in collegiate baseball.

Suddenly, it all makes sense.

We televise Major League Baseball because it provides an ultimate goal for all athletes, especially College players who yearn to play professionally. We televise the College World Series to provide Little Leaguers and high schoolers with an attainable goal. And we televise Little League baseball because it introduces the newest generation of ballplayers to America’s Past Time.

Photos courtesy RMTip21, CaptBrando and USACE Europe District via Flickr.

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