A hearty go fuck yourself, Mark Emmert

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Kevin Ware

We all saw, or made a point not to see, Kevin Ware crumple to the ground as a piece of his bone extended from his lower leg unsheathed by skin or sock in a way that bone is not supposed to. We saw the reactions from his teammates, opponents, stoic old men; the existential breakdown across the faces of many witnesses as they were removed from the safe unreality of college athletics and given hard evidence that we are living things made up of intricate systems and, sometimes, despite the incessant mythologizing, these systems fail us.

But not go fuck yourself, Mark Emmert for Kevin Ware’s injury. It was gruesome, maybe the most gruesome in our collective memory, but recoverable. It will be a process as recovery always is, but Ware, we hope, will most likely be okay. And if we were to say go fuck yourself, Mark Emmert for Ware’s injury, it would be good to remind ourselves that we are — though not as complicit — not exempt from blame in our own small way. There is no product (and Emmert has made clear that these kids are exactly that) without demand. We’ve bought the culture, filled the brackets, and accepted the potential for casualties.

We must be careful when using the slave metaphor, but how can one not seize up in disgust after Ware’s tweet last night: “I wanna thank the NCAA president for coming to visit me today. He loved my character dealing with this situation.” Django Unchained is not too far removed from our minds, and though Mandingo fighting is fiction, it is hard not to picture Emmert, pipe in hand, teeth waxed with tobacco, saying, “You did real good, boy, real good,” over a bedridden Ware.

No, the go fuck yourself, Mark Emmert is not for Kevin Ware’s injury, but for the NCAA’s handling of all injuries. Or really its management of “amateur” athletics in general. If there is any silver-lining for Kevin Ware, it’s that he fell on one of the biggest stages of amateur athletics. Where many schools grey-shirt the injured to free up scholarships (because, despite common thought, a scholarship doesn’t always carry a guarantee of four years), it would be a PR disaster if Ware were not at least placed on a medical hardship waiver.

So really, go fuck yourself Mark Emmert. You’re going to stand by Ware’s side, hold his hand, and create a nice commercial about a fantasy world where the student-athletes are pure and unsullied by the big bad dollar and boast about going pro in something other than athletics. Never mind the over-signing that is rife within the SEC football programs, getting kids to commit to universities only to complete summer workouts, move into their dorms, and be told by form letter that their scholarship no longer exists. Never mind, Joel Bauman the Minnesota wrestler, who was forced to decide between singing and wrestling for when you become an NCAA athlete you essentially forfeit all rights to your own image.

Eh, whatever. This “never mind” pattern could go on ad infinitum, but we know all of these stories and it doesn’t matter. The Final Four tips off this Saturday. I’m picking Michigan to face Louisville.