Miami Football Is One Big Con

Miami Football Is One Big Con

South Florida football fans have plenty to gab about these days. The Miami Dolphins — who haven't won a playoff game in more than a decade — are preparing for this Sunday's opener at home against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. And this past Monday night, the University of Miami Hurricanes debuted with a disappointing 31-13 loss to the University of Louisville, the same squad that spanked them 36-9 in last year's Russell Athletic Bowl.

"It's a billion-dollar industry. And if that means tolerating star players who beat their girlfriends senseless or gay-bash teammates, well, so be it.

A lot has changed since I arrived in town at the dawn of the 1990s. Back then, the University of Miami football team appeared unbeatable. Once the laughingstock of the region, the squad was in the midst of an epic 29-game win streak.

More impressive, the Hurricanes had developed their own official mythos, which went something like this: The team had united a racially divided city. Their athletic excellence had erased the dark memory of the riots and bridged the gulf between the stately avenues of Coral Gables and the inner cities of Miami.

It's taken me years to confront the reality — the many ways in which football, at all levels, represents just another con in the long nefarious history of South Florida, where conning is a way of life.

The meteoric rise of the Canes was, in fact, a remarkably venal partnership. A well-heeled, academically mediocre university got world-class players with which to build a hugely profitable program. Young men, often from economically vulnerable neighborhoods just down the road, got a possible golden ticket to the NFL. Education had little to do with it.

When it was later revealed that UM football players had accepted cash from boosters and illegal funds from Pell Grants, a Sports Illustrated writer suggested the entire program be shut down.

But this "scandal" was the logical result of the college football plantation system, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars for universities and corporations while paying the kids who put their bodies at risk exactly nothing.

Two recent lawsuits — one filed by members of Northwestern's football team, the other by players seeking compensation for commercial use of their images — may forever change the landscape of college sports. Some day soon, "student-athletes" may enjoy the right to unionize and get paid, like actual people. For now, though, they receive only scholarships, room, and board.

And thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the UM football team has continued to face scrutiny, thanks most recently to a Ponzi-scheme convict named Nevin Shapiro, who reportedly supplied cash and gifts to players as well as hiring prostitutes to hang out on his yacht for their pleasure.

This scandal has resulted in... well, not much. After a lengthy probe, the NCAA suspended half a dozen players for a few games, placed the entire UM Athletic Department on probation, and withdrew a handful of football scholarships. Wrist, meet slap.

In the end, the UM program amounts to this: an exaggerated portrait of the hypocrisies inherent in college football.

Media wags (most of them, by the way, white and reasonably well-off) still make a living vilifying players who behave too brashly on the field — as if young men who have been systematically rewarded for their savagery should be expected to conduct themselves like U.S. senators.

But the national passion for football is such that players often enjoy de facto immunity from prosecution. Consider the chilling case of Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston.

In December 2012, you may remember, a fellow undergraduate accused Winston of raping her in his off-campus apartment. According to a New York Times investigation, the Tallahassee Police Department barely probed the claim, despite physical evidence of trauma to the alleged victim as well as a second complaint from another female student who sought counseling after an encounter with Winston.

The detective on the case — who had done private security work for an FSU booster group — went so far as to warn the lawyer of Winston's accuser that Tallahassee is "a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against [Winston] because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable." The detective closed the case without interviewing Winston or collecting his DNA and phone records. FSU officials did nothing to investigate the alleged rape, despite a federal law requiring universities to do so.

In the months after the incident, the alleged victim received death threats on social media and eventually dropped out of FSU. Winston led the Seminoles to a ­national championship and won the Heisman Trophy. He is now being touted as the potential number-one pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

There's an obvious link here, between a guy like Winston and the UM players who presumably enjoyed the services of hookers supplied by a slimy booster. Football is a realm in which the accepted role of women is sexual and/or ornamental. They are not fully human. They are creatures whose purpose is to dance for the fans or fuck the players.

Not surprisingly, the hypermasculinity inherent in football is often accompanied by virulent homophobia — as any fan of the Dolphins already knows, thanks to the Richie Incognito scandal. Last season, starting left guard Jonathan Martin left the team due to persistent bullying by his fellow linemen, in particular Incognito, Mike Pouncey, and John Jerry.

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Amazing how you hate football yet spend so much of your life to write a book about how awful it is. This must have taken years. Just sitting in a small room, stewing and bile boiling, dreaming of the day that you will show them all how they "dun u wrong". What a waste!