The Death of Tradition


Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.
Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell

I always thought I was a compassionate progressive. Turns out, I’m a traditionalist. Excuse me, make that a compassionate traditionalist. The older I get, the larger my rearview mirror. Now it’s larger than my windshield.

Of course, I respect the need to sometimes make changes in the way we live our lives. But I deplore those drastic changes that ignore the common sense that is all wrapped up in established rules and practices. Hope you don’t mind if I vent a little about things that are messin’ with my world.

First, there are these crazy changes in college sports. We all know they have nothing to do with the integrity of sports, fairness, or improving competition or academics. After the Orange Bowl last year, Georgia Coach Kirby Smart went on a rant, saying, “College football has got to decide what they want.” I have news for Coach Smart. It has already decided what it wants – money.

College athletics have turned into pro sports right before our eyes— largely with our support or, at least, with our acquiescence. I hate the realignment of the college conferences, the 12-team football playoff, NIL, and the “transfer portal.” I feel that each is destroying college athletics and, especially, football. If I want to watch spoiled millionaires knock each other around for the financial benefit of crybaby billionaire owners, I can always watch the Cowboys play the Washington Commanders.

I’ve been a college sports fan all my life, and I’m especially loyal to all UT sports teams. I’ve never particularly enjoyed pro sports because they are, well, pro sports and not amateur college competitions. Now, they’re becoming all the same. I prefer to cheer for my team because it is faster, stronger, more skilled, and better coached—not because I have the best team money can buy. The NCAA can no longer insist that its purpose is to support and protect “student athletes” from professionalism. It has failed miserably on that promise and will soon request members to approve direct pay by universities to some student athletes. Just think about it, players will only have to show up on campus in the off season to pick up their paychecks. I’m happy that the needs of the players have finally been recognized, because both male and female student athletes work hard trying to get an education while at the same time practicing long hours to bring honor and prestige to their college or university.

But wouldn’t a reasonable stipend have been sufficient as part of their scholarship package? Does anybody honestly believe that a 17-year-old kid deserves an annual income in the millions because he can throw a ball for his school? Reportedly, the University of Colorado football team had two players who collectively earned over $7 million last year playing for a losing team. Hardly the way to teach team unity. Our Pride of the Southland Band has a tuba player who daily practices his instrument and performs marching drills, but he doesn’t receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in NIL money. Now, if you think that’s fair, try carrying a giant tuba around in August heat learning how to spell V-O-L-S on the field.

Now don’t try to tell me that all student athletes are actually earning NIL money by making TV ads for Mercedes Benz, cookie companies, or lawyers. They are not. When was the last time you saw a third-string guard on TV earning NIL money by endorsing a real estate firm? NIL is a sham and nothing but a device for universities to buy players or entice them to transfer schools. It’s no different from the days when coaches used to fly over a recruit’s home and drop a bale of hay stuffed with hundred-dollar bills in his backyard. I fear that big money is corrupting not only our colleges and universities but also the athletes and million-dollar teams they play on.

Poor planning by NCAA leadership and the greed of conferences and universities have created pure chaos in college sports, and the big NIL winners so far appear to be car dealerships and the lawyers who will try to straighten it all out. In my view, high school juniors should be selecting prom tuxedos and picking up their dates and not flying around the country on private jets with opportunistic businessmen carrying the promise of $2 million-per-year contracts. While the law may require fair compensation for use of an athlete’s name, image, and likeness, those opportunistic businessmen with access to booster money and private jets have turned my favorite pastime into an out-of-control lottery with few, if any, rules. The universities have fallen for this NIL scheme hook, line, and sinker.

The traditionalist in me also rejects the concept of free agency in college sports under the guise of the “transfer portal.” What it does is teach student athletes that their word is no longer their bond. They can sign to accept a scholarship from the University of Florida as a running back for NIL value of perhaps $500,000, and after one season switch to the University of Georgia for perhaps an extra $250,000 and play against Florida next year. It makes my orange blood boil when a UT player leaves to play for Kentucky because “business is business.”

By the way, do we really believe that Oklahoma and Texas belong in the SEC? First, neither is in the Southeast. They have turned their backs on their divisional conference and are coming to the SEC for TV contract money. Frankly, I always liked it when Georgia Tech was in the SEC, but teams from the Southwest do not belong. The Big Ten now stretches from New Jersey to California for the financial benefit of athletic departments and certainly not in the best interest of fans or athletes. Some poor parents will have to travel from LA to New Brunswick, New Jersey, just to see their daughter play Rutgers in volleyball.

As if the ruination of college sports was not enough, there are so many other things that drive me crazy these days. For example, would somebody please tell me the name of the person who thought it was a good idea to decorate hotel beds with 15 or more pillows? I’d like to challenge him to a pillow fight. It takes me 30 minutes every night to get the decorative pillows onto the floor and 30 minutes more to put them back in the morning. That’s one hour of productive time lost per day.

Locks on bathroom doors should be against the law. Someone put a lock code on the men’s room in the building where my law office is located. The first time I tried to gain entry an emergency situation was almost created. I know a guy in Nashville who was faced with a real emergency when he rushed into a Starbucks only to be faced with a lock code. He left dejected and in extremis. Outside, a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk saved the day. “Hey, buddy, try 9991.”

Change comes hard to a traditionalist like me. I believe these things fall under the heading of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and if I sound like a cranky old man, it’s only because people keep moving my cheese.

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