As regular readers of this space will remember, I am the unfortunate member of the TRC triumvirate that lives and works in the heart of CTU country: Pickens County. And while my location near Tigertown does afford many benefits (friends, lakes, mountains, and the wondrous Mrs. Tbone) it occasionally induces face-palming frustration.
Today was frustrating.
My ride into work is usually a quiet time, interrupted only by the occasionally interesting story on SCETV Radio’s Morning Edition. But since SCETV began its fall pledge drive this week, I’ve turned my radio dial to other programming (yes, I’m a freeloader on public radio, but that’s a rant for another blog). After hovering over a few stations, I settled on WCCP, the flagship radio for Clemson athletics.
To my surprise, the normally banal and commercial heavy Mickey Plyler Show was actually engaged in an interesting debate. The host and several of the callers were arguing over the recent revelation that local Greenville hero, George Hincappie, participated with his pal Lance Armstrong in illegal doping during their professional cycling careers.
The points of view of the callers ranged from outrage to excuse-making, but the host of the program was resolute: a failure to abide by the rules of a sport cannot be tolerated. Any deviation from the accepted standards of conduct, Mr. Plyler loudly asserted, disqualifies the participant from any claims of glory. We can forgive, the host argued, but we should NEVER forget.
He drew the contrast even sharper when one caller attempted to argue that we, as consumers, are entitled to the best performance possible from our athletes, and since they control their own bodies, we should legitimize widespread doping and just enjoy the resulting show.
Plyler was livid: How can we accept these improper practices? He offered the caller a choice: How would the caller (an SC fan apparently) feel if Clemson paid the top athletes in the country to come to the Upstate and play ball? How would an SC fan react if Clemson clobbered them on the gridiron with players that were bought and paid for by the Tiger faithful?
The caller retreated, and admitted that he would not like such an ill-gotten result. Plyler crowed victorious, and proceeded to moralize on our collective solemn duty to police ethical integrity in sport.
I screamed at the radio.
I didn’t scream because of similarities between this debate and the steriod scandals at Clemson and South Carolina in the mid 1980s, although that would be an interesting discussion. Instead, my incredulity was based on the fact that we already know the answer to Plyler’s rhetorical question because IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED, from roughly 1978 until at least 1984.
As we all know, Clemson paid for its players and then won it all.
Now, just how does one of the chief orange apologists dare to assert such moral superiority on the doping issue when the chief accomplishment of his cherished institution, the 1981 National Championship in football, was the direct result of illegally recruited athletes? Were the Clemson athletes not paid? Were they not induced to sign with cash, cars, and gifts to mom? Were the violations not so widespread that the NCAA handed down its harshest penalties up to that date?
Either Mickey Plyler has a very selective memory, or he is applying different ethical rules to each situation depending on whether or not he is a fan of the offender.
Or maybe he is going to advocate that the National Championship banner come down from Clemson’s Memorial Stadium.
Maybe, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I’ll just have to keep screaming at the radio.