Each week, Dan Rubenstein, Ty Hildenbrandt and Jacob Osterhout will jump on e-mail and riff about various subjects in the news offered up by SI.com's Jimmy Traina.
Traina: ESPN is producing a documentary on Steve Bartman. If you could have a sports documentary made about an under-the-radar figure in sports history, a la Bartman, who would it be?
Rubenstein: I've always wanted to see a good documentary done about Sam Gilbert, a UCLA basketball booster during the 1960s whose close relationship with Bruins players precisely parallels the team's overwhelmingly dominant seasons. Some are quick to accuse Gilbert of paying players/recruits, but nothing concrete has ever come out. I'm all about great booster stories, and I feel like this is the great untold story of the best college basketball run in the history of the game.
Osterhout: Being from D.C., I'd love to see a documentary on Robin Ficker, the heckler who used to sit behind the opposing team's bench at USAir Arena but was "relocated" when the Wizards moved to the Verizon Center. In a very Ficker-esque move, he publicly gave up his tickets in response to his relocation. The guy is a weird combination of stand-up citizen (he went to the U.S. Military Academy and is a lawyer) and lunatic political activist. He is currently petitioning Montgomery County in Maryland to reinstate his son's roadside fruit stand. I'm telling you, this documentary has potential.
Rubenstein: I would watch this. Immediately. How many NBA championships have the Bullets/Wizards won since they moved Ficker? Some may say there's a "Ficker Curse" at work here. How many knees has Gilbert Arenas blown out? Another underrated thing about Ficker (as I have just learned myself) is how many times his name was involuntarily mistyped as an expletive due to standard keyboard layout. Always funny.
Hildenbrandt: Without a doubt, I'd love to see a documentary on the shadowy figures involved in the conspiracy to bust up Nancy Kerrigan. There were three idiots involved after Tonya Harding gave the operation a green light: her husband, her bodyguard and a hitman who actually did the dirty work. The reenactment of the planning process would be comedic gold. I'm envisioning a dimly lit basement where one guy is smoking cigars and blowing rings of smoke; another man is searching a dark corner for a last piece of pizza; and another guy is drawing up the master plan with a crayon on a napkin. Just that scene alone would be TiVo-worthy. It'd have the sinister aura of a mafia movie combined with the jolly giggles you get from reading about a bank robber foiled by exploding money bags.
Rubenstein: On another note, I'd love to see a follow-up on where Edwina "Eddie" Franklin ended up after she improbably rose from limo driver to the head coach of the Knicks. Hands down, Eddie is one of the most riveting documentaries ever produced.
Osterhout: Agreed, Eddie was a classic, mostly because of Mark Jackson's role as the preacher, but also because Whoopi Goldberg could do what Isiah Thomas couldn't.
Rubenstein: To be fair, though, a focused eighth-grader with a working calculator and knowledge of the NBA salary cap could do what Isiah couldn't.
Traina: Florida's Urban Meyer just got a raise, to $4 million a year. Do you have a problem with a college coach making that much while the players get nothing?
Osterhout: In the convoluted world of the NCAA, it is OK for coaches and administrators to make tons of money from athletics while the players make nothing. Sure, it can be rationalized by emphasizing the beauty of the amateur nature of college sports, but when one steps back and looks at the overall picture, it's hard to ignore how messed up the situation is. For instance, the NCAA just ramped up investigation efforts into Mississippi State basketball recruit Renardo Sidney, whose parents live in a bigger house than they are supposed to. The NCAA already has his parents' financial information, and now it wants his grandparents' info as well. Meanwhile, Urban Meyer is celebrated as the highest-paid football coach in the SEC for his new contract. Sometimes logic doesn't matter when the feeling is all wrong.
Rubenstein: Without question. The amount of revenue being generated, at least by major college sports, is out of this world. Urban Meyer is worth every cent that the market dictates he's worth, but so are his players. What is it about top-level college football that doesn't make it a major sport? It's just the NCAA and the antiquated notion of "amateurism." Get rid of the NCAA's tax exemption, get rid of players' not earning money for their revenue-generating efforts, and let's move into a logical era.
Osterhout: We're all in favor of market capitalism until it interferes with the sanctity of our college football and basketball. So we make up these ridiculous rules that force young athletes to go to college and "get an education." But they don't want an education, even when it is basically given to them for free. They want to make some money. Yet, somehow that's illegal even though they are of legal working age and have the skills/potential to get paid.
Hildenbrandt: I don't have a problem with it. Most of the players are getting scholarships to major universities and incredible exposure to scouts from the NFL, so it's not like they're not benefiting from the deal. It's almost like an unpaid internship, which is a pretty frequent occurrence for those of us who are not physically capable of running a sub-5.0 40-yard dash. What I do have a problem with, though, is this notion that the sanctity of college football is being somehow compromised by coaching contracts that are increasingly more lucrative. Puh-lease. Trust me, college football has been a business for a long, long time -- huge contracts are merely a byproduct.
Rubenstein: I used to feel that way about scholarships, but let's be honest, 90 percent of the programs that generate the huge revenue numbers are state schools. Tuition and room and board don't nearly cover what TV contracts, ticket sales, donations and merchandise are bringing in. No argument from me regarding the salaries of coaches. You get what people are willing to pay you. That's the way it works.
Osterhout: Amateurs playing amateur sports is beautiful because they are playing for the love of the game and all that other sentimental crap. But there is nothing beautiful about athletes with professional skills being forced to play amateur sports that monetarily benefit everyone but themselves. They are not playing for the love of the game, but for the chance to make it to the next level.
Hildenbrandt: You can bet that a large number of athletes playing major college football are putting their higher education as a lower priority than reaching the NFL. But I never seem to hear the argument of "they get to go to school for free." Seems like a pretty good rate if you ask me. Factor in rising college costs, and you're giving kids something like six figures. How much more would you suggest paying them? I should point out that I'm not entirely opposed to the idea of allowing college athletes to share in the revenues; however, nobody has a plan for how to do it. You want to give them spending money? Fine. How much? Kind of a Catch-22. You've got to standardize it across the board; otherwise it won't be fair. And if you leave the system as is, then it's still not fair, because everyone goes to USC where everyone gets paid anyway. (I kid... I kid...)
Osterhout: It's kind of like the current U.S. health care system. If we leave it be it is unfair, but no one knows how to fix it without screwing it up even more.
Hildenbrandt: You could also get away with comparing the BCS to the current health care system and have a reasonably comfortable analogy. In fact, you could draw that parallel for nearly anything that is broken and money-driven but seemingly impossible to change. But what about smaller conferences? How do you promote growth across the board if certain conferences make more than others? As I said, I'm not entirely against this, but I'm just looking for something that sounds fair and won't lead to Orrin Hatch convening more BCS hearings before Congress. I think we would all agree that humanity has endured enough Congressional intervention in the sports world over the last five years.
Traina: Yes, keep Congress out of sports. Last topic. I touched on this in Hot Clicks. Some men's sites are banning Megan Fox for the day. What would you ban if you ran a sports Web site?
Osterhout: I would ban T.O., Kate Hudson, all foods involving cilantro, Dan Snyder and anyone dumb enough to keep their gun in the elastic waistband of their sweatpants. I would not, however, ban Megan Fox -- not now, not tomorrow, not ever. Beauty should be revered, not feared.
Rubenstein: The obvious choice here is Brett Favre, but that's a boring answer. If I ran a sports site, I do away with anything to do with poker or horse racing. Poker's just pandering to gambling addicts, and doesn't football do enough of that anyway? The same goes for horse racing. Poker may be a good time with your buddies and it may be fun to go to the track and put down a couple of bucks on the ponies, but there's nothing less exciting than hearing the word "filly" and finding out it has nothing to do with Chase Utley or David Akers.
Hildenbrandt: I'd ban links to the sites that banned Megan Fox. What are they thinking? Do advertisers pay more for non-Megan Fox traffic? Seems like a faulty plan if you ask me. In addition, I'd put a site-wide ban on pictures of Kevin Youkilis, all Brett Favre "retirement" updates, box scores that do not also show betting lines, scientific research making fun of the new Yankee Stadium, WNBA headlines and probably anything praising Gary Bettman. That'd be a good starting point.
Osterhout: Upon further consideration, I would also ban all topics relating to the Cubs leading the NL Central for fear of jinxing the team.
Rubenstein: I think I'd also ban reporting what athletes say on Twitter, unless it's news. Breaking down Shaq's tweet as a headline after the Lakers won the championship in June felt so forced. Kevin Love wants to break the Kevin McHale story on Twitter? Fine. Carlos Marmol is excited for a new episode of Whale Wars on Animal Planet? Too much.
Rubenstein: I'd ban any and all unfavorable Ben Roethlisberger stories and make it look like I was taking the high road.
Hildenbrandt: It's only a matter of time before they ban us from having these conversations. We all knew this from the very beginning, but still.
Rubenstein: They can ban us, but it'll only encourage us to create a new underground "E-mailing It In" community of millions. I envision it being something along the lines of the underground rave-orgy scene from The Matrix.
Dan Rubenstein hosts and produces the SI Tour Guy video series for SI.com and co-hosts The Solid Verbal podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ty Hildenbrandt writes for SI.com and co-hosts The Solid Verbal podcast. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter. Jacob E. Osterhout is a features reporter for the New York Daily News and a former writer for Sports Illustrated On Campus. His work can also be found at the College Sports Examiner.
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