By Jim Grundy
It’s amazing what we will do as fans, media personnel, and even people formerly associated with teams will try to do to justify or explain events, especially bad events, that happen to members of sports teams, collegiate or professional.
There’s always a fad, either blaming the coach, blaming the AD, blaming bad fans, or claiming harassment, but now there’s a all-encompassing excuse that combines all of these into one stupid explanation: it’s the culture.
What? What does that even mean? I’ve taken college classes where every student in the lecture hall has a different meaning for the word culture. Some think it’s how people live, some say it’s how we shape each other’s lives, and some think it’s a higher power that forces everyone of a similar nature to act the same.
So if everyone has a different idea of what culture is, why do we use it as an easy excuse for when things go wrong in sports? We don’t blame the athletes anymore, we don’t blame their friends or shady acquaintances, we coddle these athletes from as soon as we can figure out they’ll have a future in athletics and make sure nothing happens to them.
These chosen few can’t fail out of school (see sports factory high schools, and recently with the HBO Real Sports report on UNC and Oklahoma giving BS degrees to keep kids eligible). They can’t be criticized or they’ll hate your school or your team. They can’t be punished because someone will bail them out or explain that it wasn’t their fault. There is always some outside excuse and most of the time it’s placed on the school, which I believe is done unfairly most of the time.
The University of Missouri has been the topic of these culture questions over the past week, whether it be the Star, or Columbia Tribune orPost-Dispatch. Heck, we talk about it here at Sports Radio 810 because it always becomes a topic with when kids get kicked off teams. Let’s look at what makes a college culture, and if that in fact has anything to do with why these athletes act out.
First, let me just say that most of us went to college, and just about all of us engaged in activities that would be just as frowned upon if we were caught in the national spotlight as DGB and Zach Price did. Pot is a pretty common occurrence on college campuses, and underage drinking always causes problems from the 18-year-old pledge at his first frat party to the 23 year-old graduate student who punches out a guy at a bar. It just so happens that when an athlete does it, all of a sudden we seem to care more. Why?
Because what makes a culture? People. People make a culture. What was the culture before this latest string of arrests? Missouri was (and still is, compared to many others) that one team where if an athlete crossed a line, they were done. Michael Dixon and Derrick Washington come to mind from my days at Mizzou. They broke the rules and were sent packing. Pinkel sat his best player in 2012, Sheldon Richardson, in the last game he needed to win to secure a bowl, for showing up late to practice. He sat HIMSELF after a DUI, and has since been better about his drinking. How many other SEC coaches would bench themselves after that? NONE. ABSOLUTLEY NONE.
The culture at Missouri has nothing to do with singular players. There are always bad eggs, from the scout team to the starters, and it’s not Pinkel’s job or anyone else’s job to babysit them. In college you’re an adult, you can buy things that’ll kill you, and you can get punished if caught with many of them. DGB got arrested twice because he liked to smoke pot. Did Mizzou give him the pot? Did a booster? No. DGB or a friend he trusted got that pot. Mizzou didn’t drive him to smoke it for stress, DGB did it for fun. He smoked when he went back to Springfield and got caught there too. I’m sure Mizzou was at fault for that as well, right?
Because that is what would have had to happen for me to believe that this is a Missouri issue. If Mizzou put the pot in his hand, or if Missouri made it so that he could beat up his girlfriend.
I was in a fraternity, and there’s a perceived fraternity culture (booze, sex, parties, hazing) and my friends and I set out to redefine said culture. With about 90% of new members we brought in, we set a great example for greek life at MU and I’m very proud of the legacy I left when I graduated. But for the other 10%, they wanted the Animal House life, the Hazing stories, and everything else that could make us seem like the fraternity jackasses everyone sees on TV and in the media. They didn’t accept our culture. They took their own definition and it cost them - we either kicked them out or they left and joined other groups that fit their own definition.
That’s what we’re seeing here. We are not seeing Missouri culture come forth, we’re seeing Zach Price’s culture, where it’s OK to go after your roommate with a car or it’s ok to do it AGAIN after you got arrested earlier that day. We are seeing DGB’s culture that pot is fine to use again and again without much effort to hide it, and that it’s just dandy to break into apartments and harm others when trying to find and harm your girlfriend.
That’s what appalls me as a journalist, as a radio host, and as a Mizzou grad, because Mizzou’s culture is pretty obvious; they state it on banners from the columns: Discovery, Excellence, Responsibility, and Respect. DGB only fit ONE of those things, and it was only on the football field in which he exhibited that part of Mizzou’s culture. Mizzou doesn’t make people rape others, it cannot promote pot use, and it certainly doesn’t send others on vendettas against roommates. There isn’t just one definition of culture. I have one, you have another, and DGB and Zach price have their own.
I stand by what Mizzou stands for or what any university stands for, because when we say a school has a culture of violence or a culture of drugs or a culture not fit for a university, we blame it on the school, when we should be blaming those that have a different definition of culture that harmfully impacts a culture aiming for greater good.
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