Fig Leafs- NCAA, Penn State, and Hypocrisy

I wanted to just add my own two cents to the overall mix of posts.

In the summer of 2012, the NCAA released a statement about its decision to fine PSU $60 million dollars subsequent to the University’s acceptance of the findings of the “Freeh Report,” an investigation into how the Sandusky case happened and perpetuated for so long.  I can’t abide going into the sordid details here.  You can see for yourself.

I recall a news conference where the sanctimonious NCAA executives inveighed in somber tones that the “sports is king” mentality at PSU was a root cause and that they believed this super-duper big fine would serve to not only punish PSU, but also to send a signal to all collegiate athletics.

Here is an example of the language used (I can’t find the telecast, but this is similar.)

 These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the ‘sports are king’ mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators.

Fig leaf.  A pathetic covering not adequate to correct the problem (nudity for Adam&Eve).  If the NCAA was really so concerned about sports-are-king, they would directly address that problem on the hundreds of campuses where said monarch rules.  PSU was already underway to make big changes.  Acting as if their decision was some sort of bold change instead of band-wagoning so as to maintain the illusion of profound change is what the NCAA was doing.

Let any and all athletes who could be professional become so without the sham of  “amateur athletics” would be one start.  Requiring more revenue sharing from athletics to academics is a second.  Forcing conferences to have common schedules so as to minimize class-sports time conflicts is a third.  These would be examples of actually acting to take the crown off of sports.   Instead, they stabbed an already dead and rotting corpse.



Sick Soccer Betting in China


When I was in primary school, people were so proud of the several famous soccer players in China. People even made stories for them. However, soccer betting started since 2006 and it hurt Chinese Football’s reputation.

Back to 206 BC, China had invented the game Soccer, which was the game people separated into two teams and kicking a stitched leather ball. Today the modern version of soccer attracts more fans in China. However, a soccer gambling ring formed in China. The gambling pyramid usually has three levels of hierarchy. On the top of the pyramid are the overseas gambling corporations. They usually organize the soccer betting in China in order to earn profits. On the secondary level are the heads of Soccer Clubs. They are the manipulators in China mainland of gambling corporations. They also acted as the intermediaries, who have tight connections with captains of soccer teams and referees. Normally, these intermediaries are familiar with strength and weakness of soccer players in each soccer team. The lowest level is made of soccer players. They wait for the requests from intermediaries about the results of matches prior to the beginning of matches. To manipulate the results of matches through bribery is the main exchange rule of the circle. For example, intermediaries would have meetings with players to announce the bet price and match results. Players would have commissions if they perform the announced results.


Gambling is completely banned in China. I think gambling is a way of entertainment but soccer betting is different. Sports should be fair, regardless of ethnic, gender, nationality, age and fortune, and be apart of business. One of the examples is the World Cup. The World Cup is an international football association. It brings people from different countries together and offers a platform to pursue the same goal on the football field. I think the ethics in sports cannot be tied to ethics in business Ethics in sports should be based on absolute fairness. It has no connection with stock prices, political issues, and economic environment and employment situations. On the contrary, people can easily cross the ethical bottom-line in business unlike in sports. Ethics in business is totally different. It relates with profits of shareholders and stakeholders. For example, in the Apple case, Apple, Inc. was unethical because of the harsh working condition in its Chinese factories. So, ethics problem is more complicated with business.

The following attachment is the link of report about Chinese soccer betting:


Brain Damage: Ethical?

I remember watching this about an hour before the Super Bowl. Although I don’t agree with Maher’s driving point behind the video, that perhaps the Super Bowl is such a grand spectacle because of the NFL’s new found communist ethos, he does bring up some interesting points about the business ethics behind “The Big Game”. Is it ethical for the NFL to “Punish Success” by ordering the draft from the worst team to the best team? To answer Bill with a couple of questions I’d ask him, at which point in the season is it ethical to begin throwing games in an effort to have a better draft status and if the next season’s draft class is especially promising, and each team’s star player plans to retire the next year, is it ethical for each team to compete solely for draft position? I think the most interesting point he throws out there is: What exactly is so ethical about watching two teams of young nouveau riche men causing each other both immediate and long term physical damage? This question is better suited to be answered in the sport of boxing.

My grandfather boxed because my great-grandmother prohibited him from playing a dangerous sport like football (she didn’t exactly know what boxing involved). Some of the most captivating stories I’ve ever heard have been my grandfather’s stories about boxing in the late 40s, early 50s. He and my father began sponsoring prize fighters in the early 90s. My grandparents and my parents would fly all across the country to see their fighters fight. When I asked my father why they stopped sponsoring fighters,  it seeming so glamorous and exciting, he said, “Because of your mother.” Confused I asked her why she put the kibosh on the fun, to which she responded, “What exactly is fun about two grown men hitting each other in the face in an effort to rattle their opponent’s brain in a way that would cause them to be momentarily unable to stand?” Solid question. Is there ethical justification to deriving pleasure from watching two men club each other in an effort to cause the other brain damage? Two men stand across from each other having to each eat a healthy portion of knuckle-sandwiches for our viewing pleasure. Not only is it seemingly sick and twisted for the viewer, as my mother implicated, it may be more unethical for the two men standing in the ring. What these men do for a living would be considered, anywhere else in the world other than a boxing ring, to be a string of 50 or so attempted murders.

The ethics of prize fighting doesn’t lie within the act of the fight, but within all the benefits gained by becoming a successful prize fighter. The short doc above, done by super insightful sports blog Grantland, features a fighter by the name of Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin. One of the first things Peter says is that he began boxing because he was picked on as a kid. When you look at Peter now it’s hard to imagine he’d ever been or ever will be picked on, but when he begins to describe his childhood you begin to understand how one life event led to another. Peter’s father dealt drugs and when Peter was very young his father went to prison. Peter recalls, in the aftermath of Peter’s family losing its main provider of income, eating government distributed cheese, having no heating or hot water, and sleeping on a mattress he found in a dumpster. Boxing and fighting became his way out of poverty. Boxing enabled this extraordinarily underprivileged soul the ability to be better than the rest. Peter implies that if he didn’t take up boxing he’d probably be in jail or dead; using utilitarian ethics, it’s pretty simple to determine that prize-fighting is the more ethical option.

PS: While on the topic of academia and sports, I found this great article (coincidentally published in the Huffington Post) about the philosophy behind basketball a while back that’s a pretty interesting read.

Managing the Madness of a 20-year-old Overnight Millionaire

Publisher’s Note: Winner of Best Post of Blog 5 Round!

Kevin Durant is 24 years old and is arguably the best player in the NBA (sorry, LeBron).  For his efforts, the Oklahoma City Thunder pay will pay him $16.7 million dollars this season, but that’s only a small percentage of what he will go on to make throughout the rest of his career.  Kobe Bryant has already made over $230 million since his 24th birthday, and Durant will likely surpass that as a superstar in the league with growing contracts.  I don’t know where all this money could possibly go, but one thing for sure is that Kobe Bryant made his agent, Rob Pelinka, a lot of money.  Durant just split up with his long-time agent before this season, and with him on the open market, some of the most powerful agents took their shot at landing him and the greater than $7-$10 million dollar commission he will bring them throughout rest of his career.  I can only imagine what their sales pitch and attempt at wooing the multi-million dollar superstar included, but I am sure ethics and rules were bent, twisted, and maybe even broken throughout the process.

Imagine a young 20-year old college athlete about to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, about to have his entire world flipped upside down.  From walking around campus doing homework assignments and eating cafeteria food, to earning millions of dollars, moving to a new city, and playing a game watched and analyzed by millions of people throughout the world, the jump to the pros can be frightfully exciting.  How can you really expect a young kid to be able to train at a world-class level, deal with the media attention, and negotiate contracts and make financial decisions worth amounts of money he only dreamed of having someday?  Fortunately, sports agents exist to assist and guide these young kids, often times forming family-like relationships with the player and his family.  On the other hand, there have been a number of agents in the news for serious ethical scandals and violations.

One well-known, recent case involved Reggie Bush and his agent while he was a student at USC.  News broke that Bush and his family received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts, including a limousine ride to the Heisman Trophy presentation in New York, from his agents.  These were ploys to further their relationship with Bush and the USC football program, but seriously violated NCAA rules of paying college athletes and contracting with agents before declaring for the pro draft.  This is not the only case, though, of agent violations.  Three UNC football players were suspended indefinitely for illicit contact and involvement with sports agents—but now they are millionaires in the NFL and the agents are still serving after paying fines.  This is the root of the problem, according to Mark Yost of the Wall Street Jounral.  In a 2010 article, Yost writes,

“they’re (the punishments) never enough to deter future bad behavior. The school lost 30 scholarships, valued at about $50,000 each. That’s $1.5 million. Last year, the participating teams in the five BCS bowl games—Fiesta, Orange, Rose, Sugar and BCS National Championship Game—each received $18 million. If you were a coach or athletic director, would you risk a $1.5 million fine in a loosely enforced system to look the other way on illicit contacts with an agent, fudge a transcript or pressure a professor to change a grade in exchange for a payday that’s 12 times what the penalty would be?”

He clearly puts forth a consequentialist view to explain why it seems the problems will not go away.  Perhaps harsher punishments would further deter these unethical and illegal doings by agents, but other schools of ethics raise other questions.  Nowadays, over 50% of all sports agents are attorneys, as law degrees have become required for licenses in many leagues.  Therefore, these agents have the code of conduct of professional attorneys to live up to as agents, likely resulting in more ethical behavior.  The non-attorney agents, however, are not excused from making good ethical decisions.  While it may be tempting to offer money or other gifts to try and woo an athlete who could go on to make you millions of dollars throughout your lifetime, they would be breaking the trust of their players by putting them in situations to either awkwardly turn down, or accept thousands of dollars in illegal gifts – either of which can not be desired in a working relationship.  To some extent, though, I do believe the players and college athletes have a duty to refuse these gifts.  Sometimes there are gray areas and it is unclear what constitutes as violating the rules, but other times, athletes knowingly take gifts, sometimes even pressuring agents into a bidding war of who gives more benefits, as part of the process.  In my experience at a sports agency during my internship this summer, I was told a story of a college basketball player who essentially sat down in a meeting and asked what gifts they would give him.

Depending on the school of ethics you most believe in, I wonder who you feel is most to blame?  Is it the system and the structure for not having stricter rules and harsher punishments, the agent for offering gifts and soliciting illegal contact, or the player for knowingly accepting and sometimes seeking out gifts and illegal contact?  Vote to tell me what you think!

Football and Soccer. Is it the same game?

I have been a huge fan of soccer since the very beginning of my conscious life. I know it as football – the way they call this game in Europe. So, I might accidentally, as a matter of habit, be using “football” instead of soccer sometimes – please excuse me if that confuses you. Soccer remains my favorite sport, though I was doing many other kinds of sports: basketball, volleyball, tennis, ping-pong, swimming, skiing and skating. It is the only sport I watch and keep track of. I absolutely love this game that has a lot of elements interesting to me: flow of the game is often very unpredictable; there are so many strategies and tactics, each having different set of requirements; a significantly weaker team can turn the tides against the stronger one and etc. Watching football closely, I could not help noticing issues it has.

Ethical behavior as a concept does exist, however players and even officials break this concept easily in many cases. Match-fixing is one of the issues that occur quite often, especially in Italian football. Italy has a long match-fixing history with Calciocaos – the loudest fixing scandal with severe consequences for one of the teams – at the pinnacle. Calciocaos scandal ended with Juventus, one of the great teams in football history, being kicked to lower division, from Series A to B, for one season, which costed them two titles, reputation and a very talented player. Despite facing huge risk of punishment, teams keep practicing match-fixing. In fact, Italian league (Series A) is under investigation due to recent scandals.

FIFA Executive Committee Meeting

Football officials are not saint either. FIFA, association that is supposed to deal with controversies, corruption and unethical behavior, is rotting from inside. There was a huge bribery scandal involving FIFA chiefs last year. How can be ethical practices enforced when governing body is corrupt itself? How do we know they are not involved in the match-fixing practices?i

Those are the larger scale problems. Now I would like to talk a little about football issues, not as global, but still important. Soccer has instant-replay prohibited for some reason. Some say it adds more drama, randomness and emotional element. Others say that not having instant-replay allows unfairness and foul play. I personally think, that instant-replay is not that important, though would it be present, no unethical behavior would not have been so common. Here is a compilation of obvious foul plays.

I also wouldn’t like to watch a replay and waste 30 sec just for teams to check for offside – that would partly take the joy of watching the game. Besides, soccer also has a special place for referee, who is just as important as players are, has reputation, skill level and qualification. Implementing instant replay would make all those referee qualities mentioned above meaningless, since it would always be possible to just look at the replay. Anyways, in my opinion, if a team is really better than the other one, then the former team will win despite all the dirty plays from the latter, as in the 2010 World Cup Final.

I have actually suffered from foul play. Lack of instant-replay is only one part of the problem. Rules do not cover all possible situations in the game. It is quite difficult to determine whether a foul is hard or soft. Moreover, soft fouls do ruin the game, however it is not right to punish heavily if mistake was unintentional. People abuse this fact and sometimes play dirty. Some even adopt the dirty play style and foul just because of a habit. I have been injured once due to the “soft” foul.

Even though I have been criticizing football, I still do love that game. Soccer would have been better and there would be no need for instant-replay or other measures, if everyone was playing clean.

In the end, I would like to show a Youtube video of Maradona’s Hand of God, where Diego Maradona – legendary Argentinian player – scores a hand-ball and it got counted. Another video is dedicated to Paul Scholes – he plays for English national team and Machester United at the moment – who unsuccessfully tried to copy Hand of God.

Row, Row, Row your boat, quickly down the stream

Three hours a practice, twice a day, six days a week. This was my workout schedule when I was a rower both in high school and in college. We would row for hours working on stamina, power, and technique all in order to cut an extra tenth of a second off of our total time. What is amazing, though, is that in the world of rowing we were not doing anything above and beyond what any other team was doing. Continue reading