Saturday, February 16, 2008

Culture Shock

It's been fascinating to look around at the reactions to the Kelvin Sampson cheating scandal. People are furious. There is blood in the water, and I haven't heard too many voices clamoring to save Kelvin's job. Indiana has a top 15 team and 20 wins, but no one is defending the coach. The outrage over the hint of impropriety is fascinating when contrasted with the bizarre Belichick cool-aid swallowing that has gone on up in New England over the past few months. When their coach was accused of cheating, most of the Pats fans' arguments came down to one of the following:

1. The offense wasn't that serious and didn't affect game outcomes (we could use that one for sure)
2. Everyone does, so it doesn't matter that our coach does it (Check)
3. If you aren't cheating, you aren't trying (certainly as true in college BB as in the NFL)
4. It's all a big conspiracy because you are all jealous (ok, no one in Indiana would use this one right now)

The defense of their coach was nearly unanimous. We here in the heartland were branded as hypocrites. Now, fans in Indiana (many/most of whom are Colts fans too and bitched bitterly about Belichick), are in the same boat, but are in fact reacting differently than our Boston brethren. It's fascinating to me to see how deep the culture gap runs. To be fair there are differences:

1. Kelvin Sampson is still an outsider in Indiana. He's the coach, but none of us were really sold on him, and he hadn't won anything. Belichick is a god in New England for bringing 3 spectacular Super Bowls.
2. Kelvin Sampson was a cheater before he got to Indiana, and his new 'offenses' wouldn't actually even be offenses if he wasn't under probation.
3. Sampson is replacing a petulant legend, whereas Belichick is a petulant legend.
4. Indiana University Basketball IS Indiana. It has our name on it. They are Hoosiers; we are Hoosiers. There is no institution more important to the identity of our state than IU. The Patriots bear the name of a region (so it's already less personal), and let's be honest - the Red Sox and Celtics own the hearts of the people far more deeply than the Pats do. I'm speaking in generalities of course. There are Hoosiers who went to Purdue and Notre Dame, and folks that love the Pats over all other teams. But this is not the normal fan in Indiana nor in the North East.

It's amazing to see Patriots fans argue that their championships aren't tainted even if the cheating happened in the Super Bowl itself, where here in Indiana, I think we all feel the joy has been sucked out of this season. If IU goes on a run and wins a title under Kelvin Sampson's leadership, it will feel empty and fake EVEN THOUGH none of the offenses involved players on this team right now. He's a cheat and whatever glory he brings to the school and to the state feels dirty. Now, if they fire Sampson, and this team wins, it will be amazing. We all feel bad for these kids, who don't deserve to have their season go down the drain. None of them are under suspicion.

I'm not passing moral judgment on you, New England. The situations are not 1:1 analogous, and if a more beloved coach was a cheater (Dungy or Knight or 20 years ago) then maybe we here in the Hoosier state would do the same sort of ridiculous apologizing that you all have engaged in recently. Still, I am saying that there seems to be a very different value placed on honesty and the rules in Indiana than in the North East. You may not like our ethic, but you can't say we aren't consistent. We don't like liars. We hate cheats. We'll tolerate an a-hole forever if he wins, but a cheater. . . I hope we never get used to that.

Demond Sanders: I disagree with you on several points of significance.

1.) The joy hasn't been sucked out of this season for me. I'll be watching tonight hoping for a victory over MSU. I still want wins and more specifically NCAA tournament wins. I didn't stop rooting in 2006 after Mike Davis decided to step down. I took his loss against Gonzaga in the tournament just as hard as any. I root for wins no matter who is coaching. I like Sampson because he has them in a place they haven't been in 15 years. I liked Davis because he had them in the Finals. I liked Knight when he was winning Big Ten Titles every year. I like winning.

2.) And wow. You are very wrong about the notion of winning a title. It will feel empty to you maybe, but not to me. Hanging number 6 in Assembly Hall will rule just as hard.

3.) These situations aren't CLOSE to 1:1 analogous. This current team has in no way benefited from Sampson making too many phone calls. Belichick's teams directly benefited from the cheating.

4.) Maybe you are right. Maybe Hoosiers don't tolerate cheating, but I still feel that most of the outrage is coming from people in one of the following groups:
  • Media blow hards like Kravitz. He makes me sick. Calling the stripe out "insipid." Get a life. The kids at Indiana deserve to have some fun. That's what Indiana basketball is all about. Don't let this drama queen ruin it for you. His radio show sucks and so does his column. To be fair there are a few people at ESPN that are nearly as bad.
  • Knight lovers. They've come out of the wood work to pile on (or out their mom's basements as the case may be).
  • Purdue fans. Most are not classy enough just to be content with their great season. I hate Purdue.

5.) I think Sampson probably needs to go. The NCAA historically goes easier on schools, especially major programs, that get rid of the offender. The idea being that its not fair to harshly punish the next coaching staff and its players. I do not want to see IU banned from any upcoming NCAA tournaments. Beyond that reason, I'm somewhat indifferent. Sampson is doing a great job so far, but of course it bothers me that he is hurting Indiana's reputation.

It also bothers me that people want to get up in arms over a coach placing too many phone calls. As Allen Iverson would say, we're talking about phone calls. It smacks of dramatic people who love drama basking in the drama of a dramatic scandal. The latest allegations don't provide much additional information beyond what we learned in October. I would like to see the process play out rather than burying this guy now like everyone else wants to do. If he lied to the NCAA then he's gone.

Finally, to all you deluded Robert Montgomery Knight fans: HE'S NOT COMING BACK. As your pal John Feinstein pointed out yesterday: Knight wasn't winning in the late nineties. That's the only reason Miles Brand got away with firing him in the first place. He was not winning.

DZ's Rejoinder: What does rooting for IU after Davis stepped down have to do with anything? You really mean to tell me that if Kelvin Sampson coaches this team to a title, that the next 6 weeks of everyone knowing he is a cheater and calling for IU to fire him and then ripping IU for not firing him and caring more about winning than doing the right thing won't cheapen the experience. I'd say it would be a pretty joyless run. Instead, firing Sampson and watching the team pull together would be amazing. I like winning too, but not at the expense of my dignity.

Kravitz's venom has been fascinating. I think he's overstated things about Sampson somewhat. We said he should be fired too, but I wouldn't exactly call him 'slime'. Kravitz is right about Greenspan too. He's been embarrassing (his management of the football program has been a joke with the noted exception of hiring Coach Hep, a move offset by the rehiring of Bill Lynch). But it's like Bob has saved all his bile that he couldn't use on the Colts or Ron Artest (since he was run out of town) and dropped it on IU. Like I've said, I think Sampson needs to go. I think Greenspan was a fool for hiring him in the first place, but I do think some modicum of restraint has to be shown given the fact that the allegations aren't on par with buying cars for kids or arranging for drugs and hookers. He showed a weird arrogant disregard for the rules which is troubling. He probably lied. He should get fired. He has disgraced Indiana University on a national stage. Still, I'm not sure he's 'slime'. That seems a bit over the top.

The latest allegations do up the ante over those in October in one way: the say he intentionally lied to the NCAA. The original complaint was brought by IU (which is cool - the school is taking things seriously), but now the NCAA says Sampson tried to lie and cover up what he did. His real crime is taking the NCAA sanctions against him so lightly. That was just stupid. Sure, what he's mostly being accused of wouldn't be illegal without the probation he received, but still, his lack of respect for authority is more than a little troublesome. He set some horrible precedents that must be reversed for the good of the school and the state.

Demond Sanders: Indiana may not be able to fire Sampson for legal reasons. Instead, they may have to offer him a generous buy out of his contract in exchange for a resignation. Supposedly that's what this 7 day "investigation" is all about. Giving them time to negotiate. If the administration can't get something settled with Sampson then he'll either be suspended or he'll be coaching next month.

Either way, I'm not going to let the media tell me what to think. I would have no problem rooting for Indiana under Sampson in the tournament next month. Although this is a moot point because he's not going to be around. To me, it is about the players. I think most Indiana fans would be right there with me rooting them on. That's the reason I brought up Mike Davis. Real fans rooted for Indiana even if they didn't think he was the right coach. There were plenty of fake fans who rooted against the team because of Davis. Real fans wanted Indiana to win it all even after Davis had resigned.

As I said, if he lied then he's gone. It's one thing for him to ignore the sanctions placed on him; it's another thing for him to cover it up. If there is one lesson common to almost every scandal: It's always the cover up that kills you.


coltsfanawalt said...

Just watched the win over Michigan State. I understand the Patriots frustration. In our case, Sampson has done alot for our school just by bringing in Gordon. We have a great shot this year, but Sampson is likely going down. I'm not happy to see it, but it's probably the right thing. After all the Patsies have accomplished, this scandal has to be hard to face rationally. Still, with both clubs, right is right, and wrong must be dealt with. Here's to the hope that any changes motivate us to a greater tournament run.

Oh, and to the hope that DJ White is going to be okay by Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the way Indiana flipped on Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson. Beating up fans half your size isn't the equivalent of phone calls or video tape, it's obviously a violation much more extreme and of a more moral nature. It does go to show how quickly the adoration of this state can be flipped to hatred in an instant.

Anonymous said...

Look at the way people in Mass react to scandals -- have predatory sex with an underage page? You become a hero! Drown your sex toy and cover up your crimes? Re-elected for life! Get railroaded into a life sentence on obviously bogus charges of driving a fork into a child and having sex with a bunny costume, etc? Keep 'em in prison! Catholic Church allows predator priests to molest children for years? Yawn.

Corruption, scandal, extortion, bribery and dishonesty are so integral to the fabric of life in New England that the people there have lost their capacity for genuine ethical and moral discernment.