Saturday 22 July 2017

Young offenders go through hoops

Eamonn Sweeney

One of my personal favourite sporting events of the year is what Americans call March Madness, the national college basketball championships where 68 qualifiers are whittled down over a couple of weeks to a final four. The likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all sprang to national prominence in the tournament.

This year's big sensation is Jimmer Fredette, a shooting guard from Brigham Young University in Utah who looks certain to win the Naismith Trophy for player of the year and has been described by Kevin Durant, MVP in last year's world championship, as, "the best scorer in the world". But Fredette, a 6' 2" white New Yorker who shoots three-pointers as though he's discovered a magnetic attraction between ball and hoop, is extremely unlikely to make it to the Final Four.

Why? Because, just before March Madness began, Fredette's college decided to suspend key player Brandon Davies for the rest of the season because he breached the school's Honour Code. The player's offence was to engage in pre-marital sex. BYU is a Mormon university and other offences against the code include such monstrous acts as drinking tea or coffee, growing a beard, wearing earrings and smoking.

The irony is that the suspension comes at a time when a survey by Sports Illustrated shows that a large number of young men with criminal records are being recruited by college football teams.

Pittsburgh is the worst offender. The college had 22 players with criminal records on the squad last year and in a two-month period had players arrested for allegedly hitting a pedestrian while drunk driving, throwing a man through a glass door, choking a woman and beating her head off a wall and beating up two men. And who are one of the favourites to win March Madness now that BYU have shot themselves in the foot? Pittsburgh. It's not half settled that country.

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