On May 18, 1989, Dexter Manley left the nation in shock — at least those who didn’t know the score until then — when he testified before a U.S. Senate panel on literacy.
Manley, at the time, was a star NFL defensive end with Washington. Before that, he’d academically matriculated to become a senior at Oklahoma State under head coach Jimmy Johnson, who later coached in the NFL then landed with Fox Sports.
On that day, Manley revealed that his entire experience as a full scholarship college student-athlete was fraudulent, as he could neither read nor write.
Manley did have a learning disability, making it a greater challenge to succeed in, or even gain admission, to most universities. Yet the system predictably failed him.
Many were left in shock, aghast. Moral outrage as promulgated by the national news media followed.
And that gnashing of teeth over such a sickening win-at-all-costs story lasted about, oh, a week.
Then it was back to big-time college football and basketball business as usual, universities serving as fronts for teams assembled by whatever-it-takes design — including loopholes, winks and nods.
By 1989, TV money had been long established as the root of both semi-literacy and growing criminality among “student-athletes,” thus the incentive to act on Manley’s sorrowful tale was zilch.
The enablers, such as ESPN, made no value judgments beyond national rankings and popularity as to which schools to schedule.
In fact, in an astounding piece of on-air rationalization, ESPN college basketball know-it-all Jay Bilas once declared that it’s not important if recruited players attend classes because just being on campus improves “socialization skills.”
Then there was the University of North Carolina academic scandal, in which athletic recruits, across 18 years, maintained eligibility with A grades in no-show or fabricated courses. Rashad McCants, first-round NBA pick in 2005, claimed that after nearly flunking out, he made UNC’s academic Dean’s List — four A’s included — without attending a class. That claim was refuted by some teammates and coaches.
Today, and virtually every day and for too many consecutive years, NFL and NBA players, not long out of college, demonstrate their minimal literacy and absence of social skills.
Last Sunday, following the Bears’ win over the 49ers, Chicago defensive back Jaylon Johnson, a three-year University of Utah man, was asked to assess the play of opposing QB Trey Lance.
Johnson: “He ain’t do s–t.”
Latest in an endless series.
This is what big-ticket college football and basketball increasingly produces. And for those uneducated semi-literates or without social skills — all college men — the overwhelming majority of whom don’t make the pros can return from where they were recruited.
No upside, all down. Dexter Manley’s shocking Senate testimony was barely worth a shrug.
Torres’ showboating costs Yanks a base, again
Doesn’t matter if the Amazon Prime Video Yankees are running away with the AL East, they’re still in postseason peril if they continue to play Aaron Boone Baseball, the kind that leaves them inexcusably short of the base they should be on.
Wednesday, Gleyber Torres. Again. With a 4-2 lead in the ninth, runner on second, Torres hit one deep to center. At first he posed near the plate as if he thought he had hit a home run. Then he jogged toward first, watching. Only when he saw the ball fall from the heel of Abraham Almonte’s glove near Fenway Park’s center field roll-up gate did he run.
Torres reached second, standing, when he should’ve made third, standing. Still, he had the energy to demonstrate his smiling self-aggrandizement toward the Yankees’ dugout. “Yeah! Check me out!”
YES next presented an isolated recording. Torres was seen posing, then jogging. Yet neither Michael Kay nor David Cone said a thing. The standard YES Network insult: Viewers are too dim to see better or know better.
Last postseason the Yankees were one game-and-out, losing the wild-card game to the Red Sox, 6-2, in Boston. In that one, all-or-nothing, Giancarlo Stanton posed a “home run” high off the wall into a single.
From Day 1 this season, Boone should’ve told his troops that those days are over. They’re no longer going to choose to minimize the Yankees’ chances of winning. Running to first base is no longer an option.
But nothing has changed. No matter where and when, he’s good with inexcusably bad baseball.
A dear friend and generous volunteer community elder in central New Jersey attended a recent board meeting at which a therapist with Jewish Family Services said he has become “overwhelmed” with young, gambling-related clients.
My friend paraphrased the therapist: “They all thought they knew sports, thus they’d all make a fortune.”
Stands to reason. These sports-gambling operations know who they’re targeting and why. You see their marks in the TV commercials — young adult, high-fiving males, often with team caps turned backward, celebrating another money-for-nothing win. No one loses!
And everyone’s in on this fix, all eager for their cut of the losses. The commissioners of our sports, team owners, TV and radio network owners and all forms of commercial media want their slice of the action and devastation.
SNY has tight strike zone
Reader Jim Curnal, astute baseball observer, notes that SNY’s superimposed “tell-all” strike zone box is way off, and he sent screenshots as proof. The box shows the strike zone to be waist to knees. MLB’s prescribed strike zone is from what’s known as “the letters,” well above the waist, to just below the knees.
Now what? The same media that spent a week telling the conspicuous lie that Serena Williams is the finest person to ever play tennis now must report that Roger Federer, a gracious champion and gentleman who is retiring next week, wasn’t quite up to the standards set by Williams? After all, the best Federer could do was finish second.
What we speculated here months ago is still a possibility: an Aaron Judge record-breaking home run appearing only on — exclusively on — Amazon Prime Video, the Yankees’ just-pay-us replacement for Ch. 11.
Everything to know about Aaron Judge and his chase for the home run record:
Slightly overstated claim of the week: Ch. 4 sports anchor Bruce Beck on Monday declared the Giants’ Week 1 game, “A win for the ages!”
Reader Joe Martingano, on Jets head coach Robert Saleh: “If he wants ‘to ‘take receipts,’ he should work the door at Costco.”
There’s a new one going around on TV. Rather than say “fumble,” you go long-form, thus a failure of “ball security.” It’s a second cousin to the Discipline Twins, “Arm” and “Eye.”
To think Jack Buck, a pro’s pro, used to call “Monday Night Football” on national radio. Now we’re stuck with “Hollerin’ ” Kevin Harlan, whose key-to-modern-success is screaming so often and so loud that listeners often have no idea what he’s screaming about.
It might be time to freshen up a bit. Mets radio over WCBS 880 continues to include ads for Key Foods supermarkets that remind us, “Baseball is back!”
I was flattered to have received updates from the proud grandfather of Anthony Varvaro as Anthony worked his way up to pitching for the Braves in the 2010s. I was told that regardless of making the bigs, he’s special, a sweetheart to friends, family and strangers. We had Staten Island in common.
Varvaro — father of three, St. John’s grad and a Port Authority police officer — was killed last week en route to a 9/11 memorial when his car reportedly was hit by a wrong-way driver. He was 37. Good grief.