Dare to be stupid

I had an interesting call last night from the editor of the student paper I help advise. Seems a local media outlet had published a story that said many athletes on the school’s big-time sports teams had been using their scholarship money, which was meant to go toward rent and books, for things like mopeds and beer. The kid was worried he’d been scooped and so he sent a reporter after the story and the reporter turned up enough to put together a story for the paper. The editor then wondered if it really was a story, so he called me to bat it around.

In the discussion, I learned that what the athletes were doing wasn’t illegal (nor did the original story claim it was). The money apparently came to them in the form of a check or direct deposit in the amount that was slated to cover the costs of room and books and such. They were told what it was for, but weren’t commanded to use it for such a reason. The editor was arguing that people would be interested in the story, so it probably was a story. I pushed back with the idea that regular students (myself included a long time ago) probably got scholarships and spent the money on stupid crap and that didn’t make the paper. During my doctoral program, I got a pretty heady stipend for doing some teaching and being a graduate researchslave assistant. I can guarantee you, a goodly amount of that money landed on the bar of my local pool hall. (To be fair, I also used some of it to save for a wedding. The Missus and I pretty much ate nothing but Ramen for 18 months as we each put away 1/3 of our net income each month so we could blow it on the best party we could ever hope for. It was totally worth it.)

In the end, we decided that it probably wasn’t really a story, but it left me thinking. We hold athletes to higher standards because they are in the public eye. To some degree, they don’t do a hell of a lot to help themselves, especially at the professional level. There are things athletes do that are criminal, such as Donte Stallworth’s DUI. (As a Browns fan, I’m praying that Stallworth’s mug shot eventually surfaces so they can stop using the picture of him in his Browns jersey for every story about the vehicular manslaughter trial.) There are things they do that are publicly crazy, like the idiot who tried to climb through the drive-through window at Taco Bell after they shorted him a chalupa. (‘Roids, anyone?) There are things they do that are morally bereft, like the stories that keep surfacing about guys like Travis Henry, who has about 1,242,523 kids by just as many women. (Note to Travis: It’s called a condom. Use one. Also, realize that women aren’t vending machines.)

However, there seems to be a trend of having low-grade levels of stupidity leading to hand-wringing and moral outrage when it comes to athletes. I think about this every time I see stories about how collegeathletes are skipping classor blowing scholarship money on beer. We get calls for investigations, arguments against the culture of entitlement and then we go home and watch the Final Four and cheer like hell.

If we really believe that the use of money provided for scholarships like these deserves scrutiny for stupidity, I’m fine with that. If that’s the case, however, let’s be consistent across the board. I’ve yet to see anyone investigate a program like the one in Wisconsin, where valedictorians get a big chunk of their tuition paid for if they attend a state school. You can’t tell me that one of those kids didn’t find beer, weed or sex at college and suddenly drop off the GPA grid.

College is a time in which we do stupid things. It’s how we smarten up for later in life. The scar above your eye from the time you puked so hard on your 21st birthday that you slammed your head into the toilet bowl reminds you not to drink that much any more (or at least put the padded seat down when you do). The time you walked in to a midterm that you didn’t know was going on because you blew off four weeks of class taught you to pay more attention to your surroundings. The “Vanilla Ice Posse Member” tattoo you have on your shoulder reminds you that you should never match fleeting trends with remarkable permanency. Dumb is dumb, but none of this is illegal.

Being stupid is not a crime. And it’s probably not a news story either.

11 thoughts on “Dare to be stupid

  1. Doc, you made me laugh out loud. For that, I thank you. God, do I remember being stupid…

  2. What WOULD be a news story is why, in this age of us nagging people over every detail of every bit of assistance we give to them, the money IS so unregulated. Knowing college kids can be stupid (though I don’t know that purchasing a form of transportation is stupid), why just hand them an allowance? That’s a question that, even if it has 100 sensible answers, could lead to an interesting news story, instead of to something you just publish because somebody else had it too.

  3. I’d like to take a counterpoint with this.
    In college you do stupid things, but it is also where you learn that there are possible consequences to doing these things (unlike the recent presidency). Also that when you represent a company, your actions reflect on the company. It is practice, in a relatively safe sandbox, for the real world.
    Don’t know what league your school is in, but if they go on to be professional athletes, they are gonna get the same, but much stronger and with stronger consequences.
    Is it illegal for the athletes to buy beer – not (depending on their age).
    But I’d also take the low academic expectations for athletes (even in my college years (ugh – 30 years ago) to back up the idea (probably destined to never happen) that college athletes should, in essence, be a semi-pro league that represents the college but isn’t necessarily tied to the college academics.
    Let’s face it – it is what happens, de facto, anyway. Not to mention that the ability to throw a football doesn’t correlate with freshman english grades. And why deprive the talented athlete with poor academics the opportunity to advance in the area of their skill?
    Admittedly, I am now ducking under the table to avoid the shoes thrown at me.

  4. No shoes from me, but a comparison.
    Take a hard look at the graduation rates for female athletes in NC2A sports — and at the grad rates for all athletes in D2 and D3 schools.
    I think you’ll see something that would make a whale of a story.

  5. I think its just a basic confusion on the part of the school between dedicated money/special rules surrounding “amateur” atheletes and real news. Scholarship money is *money*–its fungible with other money. I don’t care what work you get your stipend/work study for there is no legal or moral requirement that you spend it on X “good” thing–books! and not on food or drink while you spend *other* money on books. Sure, if the money was in the form of a grant to “buy books” and you never bought the books that would be bad. But its unclear how you can tell whether a student bought books with the grant money and a moped with some other money or bought the moped with the grant money and some books with some other money. I’m old, but as I recall it money used to come in these things we call bills, or credit, and you couldn’t really tell what pocket it came out of.
    This story is so dumb that its hard to know what the source of the dumb is. I think its because the reporter mistook “atheletes doing stuff in college” for an interesting story, kinda like the perennial “coeds in college” long outlived the surprise factor of having girls in college.
    Also, of course, the “rules” applying to athletes are sometimes different or more stringent than those applying to ordinary students because of the basic corruption of amateur college athletics. But the story there is hiding in plain site, as the Other Sarah points out, and its not really going to be found in nickel and diming the actual atheletes to death.

  6. Well, in my fair state of Tennessee a state representative has proposedtesting gov’t assistance recipients for drugs. The logic at work here is that people getting assistance just aren’t GRATEFUL ENOUGH for the crumbs we throw their way and are somehow misusing this assistance, SQUANDERING it, because by God if I was getting a gummint handout you can be damn sure I wouldn’t be spending it on beer and meth!
    It’s this punitive way of looking at the world that I just don’t get. It’s a way of inflicting pain on people in need. I just don’t understand what would cause a group of people to want to do that, let along a political party.

  7. Southern Beale –
    Its just a way of helping the poor. Because if they’re gonna die, they’d better do so quickly and put an end to the surplus population.

  8. This sort of seems to be a non-story to me. Back when I was in university, some wags called the local student-loan programme (initialism “OSAP”) the Ontario Stereo Acquisition Programme, since that’s what a lot of students did with (some of) the money. Hell, I can’t guarantee that I should be throwing stones here, either — did the money for that stereoI bought when I was in grad school (because my other one broke and I can’t live for more than a few days without music) come out of my student loans, or did it come from the two grants I got, or from income from one or other of my two part-time jobs?
    I can however absolutely guarantee you that none, not one thin Canadian dime, of my student loan money ever went towards beer, because I hate the stuff and never touch it. 🙂
    Uh, Doc, in the case of Travis Henry: Do you really think it’sless moral of him that he’s got several kids by several women, or that hedoesn’t want to pay child support for them? Honestly, I personally don’t give a rat’s ass whether heactually has 1 242 523 kids by 1 242 523 women or not, as long as he’s supporting the one’s he’s got. (Being a certifiable bastard myself, I don’t get to throw stones there, either.) Sheesh.

  9. interrobang-
    The Henry thing just makes me shake my head all around. The lack of support is the big bother, but you’ve got a good point that if he decides to be the Johnny Appleseed of the NFL Hangers-on Club, well…
    I meant the comment more along the lines of how the “stud athlete” term is taking on different meanings in some cases and how societal norms tend to moralize on this.
    Personally, I’m a big fan of personal responsibility, whether that’s taking precautions ahead of time or accepting the outcomes after the fact. Henry just seems to be one of those guys in the Shawn Kemp Fan Club who does neither. I guess I personally don’t see it as moral thing either way, but a common sense thing. Others, however, would likely vociferously disagree.

  10. My daughter was valedictorian of her class. She graduated with 2 years of college math including calculus and trig. She received math and science awards and a small scholarship from Colorado School of Mines two years in a row. THose tiny scholarships ere Not enough though. I have three other children and make less than $50,000. I can’t afford to pay for her college.
    This year she got her tuition paid by an honors scholarship at a state college, an honors scholarship from the county, several small scholarships she applied for. SHe spent most of her senior year searching for scholarships that middle income, white girls were eligible for. Since I make about $50000 with 4 kids, she is not elegible for any PELL grants. She get 8 hours a week of work study. Because she is not a minority or low income, she is not eligible for 90% of the scholarships out there. I am not poor, but I am also just barely middle class. White, Lower middle class children are basically screwed when it comes to going to college. Their parents can’t afford to save and can’t afford to borrow.
    My daughter resents seeing kids who screwed off all through high school getting free rides while she has to borrow and beg for a little help. SHe watches those kids go to school getting not only complete tuition, but also living expenses, and they are making much lower grades than she does.
    She worked her tail off all through high school, and I still don’t know if she will be able to finish college because she is having a terrible time getting by. She is under tremendous stress because of finances, a lot for a 19 year old girl to carry. SHe has started having migraines. I pay half her rent, and I buy most of her food. But, it is a strain on my other kids. Luckily they are used to doing without.
    I am glad Obama is going to help poor kids with more PELL money. But why is there never any discussion about raising the income level for those eligible for help? Fine to give poor kids more money, but lower middle class kids deserve college, too. Why not help more kids who deserve an education?

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