Way back when, we were all taught that two negatives make a positive. Let’s test the theory with Frank Deford and Jay Bilas.
In Tuesday’s weekly commentary on National Public Radio, Deford nestled in on familiar ground by zinging the NCAA, this time for the approaching Division I Presidential Retreat.
“Next week, at some place in Indianapolis where time has been instructed to stand still, Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, will convene what is being called, without irony, a ‘retreat,’ ” said Deford.
Deford is all about erudition, so we had better pause for a trip to the dictionary:
retreat n 4. A group withdrawal for prayer, meditation or study.
Yep, that seems correct. Now, on to the substance of his complaint.
“The NCAA claims that amateurism equates to purity,” he said. “That is a canard; there is simply no proof of that. Otherwise we would have amateur musicians, painters and writers, and art would flourish pristine as never before.”
Just where does the NCAA equate amateurism with purity? We hear much about the oversized Division I Manual, but a search of its 432 pages does not reveal a single use of the word “purity.”
I’m not aware of anybody who attaches a special haughtiness to the collegiate model of athletics. Most of us who work in the field daily believe it’s a good and workable approach, even if adjustments are required from time to time. But as for a belief that amateurism equals purity, I’m throwing the straw-man flag on Frank Deford.
The second negative is Jay Bilas. This morning, he was all a-Twitter about the Deford commentary. “I’m sure heads in the NCAA office are exploding like in the movie ‘Scanners’ over this one,” Tweeted Bilas.
I regret if this blog somehow fuels that notion. I can reveal, however, in two meeting-packed days at the NCAA national office, the name “Frank Deford” has not been mentioned once in my presence.
I’ve paired Bilas and Deford in this space together before, but the linkage bears repeating. They are both smart guys, but they underachieve on their commentary about college sports because they are so predictable.
Well, sure. But who said that Jay Bilas is uniquely positioned to declare what’s right or reasonable?
So, do these two negatives, Deford and Bilas, somehow multiply to become a positive? It doesn’t seem so. Maybe the answer is elsewhere in mathematics: Nothing from nothing leaves nothing.