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Syracuse Sanctions, The Conversation We're Having & The Conversation We're Afraid to Have

The sports world is speaking and it demands blood. So how come it's siding with the guys it spends the rest of the year hating?

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

We live in a world of absolutes.

I don't know if it's because of social media or if social media merely magnifies our nature tenfold, but we certainly seem to live in a world that demands three things.

  1. Accountability
  2. Justice
  3. Absolutely no delay in either of those things.

Shades of grey? We don't do that anymore (saucy books and films notwithstanding). Everything is black and white. We don't have time to wait for the 30 for 30 that'll be made five years from now proving that the guilty party was under more duress than we could have ever imagined and wasn't, in fact, guilty after all. We saw it happen five minutes ago. We have no time for rational thought. Justice must be served. RIGHT. FUCKING. NOW.

Say something racist on Twitter? You better be fucking fired from your job by noon or else. Have kids? Don't give a shit. You're an idea, not a person.

Make a dumb joke at the wrong time? We don't have time to forget that it ever happened because, in the grand scheme of things, it's as meaningless as anything else anyone said on social media while that even was happening. No, this person must feel pain and they must suffer consequences that will linger long beyond the time any of us remember why.

That's not to say that everyone is free to say and do as they please. There are repercussions. But, because we live in an Age of Bullshit and because we, like Sith Lords, only deal in absolutes, the punishment very rarely fits the crime anymore. The punishment almost always goes well beyond the crime, deserved or not.

All of this lengthy intro is not to say that Syracuse Athletics, Jim Boeheim, DOCTOR Daryl Gross and everyone under their charge is innocent of the violations laid out by the NCAA last week. There is no denying that Syracuse knew there were rules, willfully violated them and also didn't do the due diligence required to make sure that other rules weren't being broken. Violations occurred. Sanctions are to be expected. Disappointment is sure to follow.

On one hand, you have Syracuse Orange fans, who seem to have separated into three factions:

  1. Fans who accept that SU screwed up and just hope to see the program move forward and recover.
  2. Fans who refuse to acknowledge that the NCAA has any power and want to vilify anyone who demonizes SU, the wronged party here.
  3. Fans who want to torch the Dome, salt the earth where it stood and start the entire Syracuse basketball program from scratch.

If I'm putting myself into any of those groups, it's the first one. I'm not going to turn into a Penn State Truther (which is what those in Group No. 2 should know they sound like). I'm always quick to say that I don't put The Program over people. The Program is not infallible and The Program is not interested in what's best for the players. The Program is about protecting The Program above all else and that's why we are where we are.

As for the third group, well, you've got company. From Pat "Mr. Obvious Opinion" Forde to the Associated Press to the New York Times, voices have risen up from all over the country with a specific message:

Jim Boeheim needs to be fired.

I will say this. They're not entirely out of left field with that opinion. Dick Vitale says that Boeheim's only crime is that he trusted the wrong people. Maybe so. But he also trusted the wrong people in the early 90's. And he trust the wrong person (allegedly) for 30 years. And now he's trusted a whole boatload of wrong people.

So, we accept that there were violations and dumb decisions and lies and outright shadiness afoot.

But what I find interesting about all of this is that while everyone is busy having the conversation about what a jerk Jim Boeheim is, no one is having the other conversation that we might want to have as a companion piece.

On a normal day, when no one has committed any sins and the world is happy and wonderful, everyone is in agreement: The NCAA sucks and college athletics are broken. Everyone agrees with this. EVERYONE. Okay, maybe not Mark Emmert and his mom, who thinks he's doing a great job, but everyone else knows it.

Ask 100 college basketball fans if things need to be changed. They'll all say yes.

Ask 100 college basketball fans if the NCAA is shady and corrupt and makes up its authority on whims. They'll all say yes.

Ask 100 college basketball fans if we need to make wholesale changes to the system because any punishment levied by the NCAA is just made-up nonsense. They will all...say...yes.

And then when the NCAA punishes someone...all 100 of them immediately attack the school and call for blood. They all stand WITH the NCAA, accept what the NCAA says as gospel and DEMAND MORE THAN THE NCAA ASKS FOR as punishment.

That's really fucking weird, right?

Imagine if there's this company that puts crazy chemicals in our food. I'm just spitballin' here. And they go out and they threaten all the farmers to use their seeds or go out of business. We all agree that's fucked up. But then when the farmers decide to secretly grow their own food and Monsanto this horrible made-up corporation sues the farmers, we all side with the horrible corporation and demand that the farmers quit their jobs, deed their farms to the corporation and go hang themselves in the silo.

Again, I'm not trying to say Syracuse is innocent and deserve praise for their shady tactics. What I am saying is that it's super-duper-weird that we spend 99% of the year criticizing everything the NCAA stands for and then 1% of the year high-fiving the NCAA when they bring down their brand of justice on college programs. And then a week later we go right back to hating the NCAA and not believing anything they say.

Why is that? What is that about?

Maybe it's that world of absolutes we're living in. We don't care who's the good guy and who's the bad guy. We don't even really see good guys and bad guys anymore. We see guilt and innocence. We see crime and punishment. We don't see human beings, we see entities. And it's easy to not see humanity or pathos or layers in an entity.

So if you want Jim Boeheim fired, that's your right and I'm not gonna fight you on that. If it did happen, I actually wouldn't be very surprised. I think you'll get your wish one way or another soon enough when he announces that "he has decided" next season will be his last with Syracuse. We'll see.

But I guess my question to you, is, why aren't you taking that same vitriol, that same passion, that same energy and throwing it back at the NCAA? Why do you see their punishments and just accept them as cemented law even though we all know that's not true, even slightly? Why will you take this anger and stuff it back down until the next school screws up rather than turning around and firing it, Cyclops-style, at the NCAA?

If Jim Boeheim is fired tomorrow, or quits next week, a whole slew of people will pat themselves on the back for a job well done. The dragon has been slain. The monster destroyed. And yet none of those people will then pick their pen (or laptop) back up and write about how now we need to do the same to the NCAA, which perpetuates the system which ensures situations like this will continue to happen and the cycle will never end.

Syracuse will suffer it's fate, don't worry about that. And next week, when the NCAA ruins a student-athlete's career because he took $10 from someone so he could avoid starving, I'm sure you'll complain. But you won't put your back into it. Not like you did with Jim Boeheim.

And that's just fucking weird.