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Sports stories, ripped from the headlines

I don't write the headlines or kickers for my columns. I email a column in and someone at the paper adds the titular titles.

For a time, I tried saving the column files with what I hoped would be their would-be headlines. That strategy rarely worked out so well.

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In our Twitter-as-a-news-service times, some news outlets make a living off of over-sensationalizing stories with eye-catching kickers. Sadly, sometimes these news outlets play hijinx with their headlines to a degree that decries, or is in the least, deleterious to the stories' subjects.

There is a certain Catch-22-ed-ness in the word smithing science of creating an attention-grabbing kicker.

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Sadly, in many of the same instances and in much the same way, the truth is also lost in and/or to the lead too.

I am not a journalist. I don't claim to be. I write for fun. But, I read a lot of news, particularly that which is particular to what I do do professionally. And, it seems that sports journalism and sports journalists have, at times become more about storytelling, and certainly more about story selling, than about being journalists in the more traditional, disciplined, integrity-filled meaning of the word and/or profession.

Call it a slow sports week. But, I read two stories, both because the headlines caught my eye, that sort of led me to drop an opinion on the subject of reading — more than just the headline and the lead.

The first story had a headline that read, "Royalties from Gatorade Trust Surpass $1 Billion."

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I like Gatorade, I thought. So I'll bite.

Gatorade is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The University of Florida, a 20 percent beneficiary of the trust, reported last week its earnings from the royalties on the sale of its somewhat eponymous sugar water-plus-saline sports drink recently surpassed $281 million.

From the outside looking in, the scientists that invented Gatorade benefitted from their invention's association with a successful football program — one that, at the time of the drink's invention, was somewhat notorious for finishing games stronger than its opponents. And, the relationship was mutually beneficial to the university, financially and for its ability to lay claim to being the birthplace of Gatorade — an iconic, global sports industry brand on par with Nike and the New York Yankees.

Seeming sports-science-based symbiosis — sugar plus saline equaling a win-win for all involved.

But, to read further is to find some interesting information.

Gatorade was invented by Dr. Robert Cade and a team of medical fellows in a lab at the University of Florida in 1965. About a third of the way into the story we learn that "after his team's formula was used by the school's football program for two years and received great publicity, Cade offered the product in its entirety to the university's head of sponsored research in 1966 for $10,000." The school passed. The doctor then took the drink to Stokely-Van Camp, and offered to sell it to them for $1 million. Instead, Stokely-Van Camp "agreed to pay the doctors $25,000 up front, a $5,000 bonus and a five-cent royalty on every gallon sold."

"Soon the product that the school's head of sponsored research thought didn't have much potential was a marketing phenomenon." (Half way through the story.)

"But the school wasn't done."

As Cade wrote in his autobiography, "they told me Gatorade belonged to them and the royalties were theirs. I told them to go to hell. So they sued us." (Further down in the story.)

In the lawsuit "the University of Florida said its labs, its football players and its mascot's name were used in the formation of the product. But the school had a couple of problems with its case. Cade and the other doctors were funded by National Department of Health grants and, perhaps more significantly, Cade had somehow never signed the standard invention agreement, which in most cases assigned about 75 percent of the earnings from a deal reached by a University of Florida employee back to the school." (Closer to the end of the story than the beginning.)

I found this last sentence to be the most thought provoking, particularly against the backdrop of today's pay-for-play, unionization, and exploitation of student-athlete debates. Some like to silo sports and academics on university campuses. But, why can't one look to the other to find best practices that may benefit the human labor and capital being given an opportunity and, arguably, being exploited at the same time?

Scientists working to develop patents and solve pressing scientific problems on university campuses across the country surely benefit from the time, resources, and funding afforded them by the universities that employ them. In return, it is apparently commonplace for the universities to reap the yeoman's share of the proceeds derived from the commercialization of any scientific developments such scientists successfully shepherd into being.

But is this fair? Should a university be entitled to 75% of any commercial benefit derrived from such scientific developments? Maybe the scientists need a (better) union?

But, looking across campus — is there something to this model that could help bring constructive dialogue to the conversation that otherwise has the NCAA and representatives on behalf of its student-athletes backed squarely in their opposing corners?

Maybe high-browed academics and high-profile athletes, both generating great sums of monies for their universities can learn from each other in ways that may benefit them both.

Could an answer, at least a partial solution, to the debate over how to remove some of the antiquated hypocrisy from the NCAA while maintaining some semblance of the ideal of amateurism be found right across campus – literally and figuratively speaking, in the science labs?

The second story's headline read, "Louisville Investigating Claims of Escort Use in Recruiting."


Certainly a titillating title.


As bombastic as Dickie V can seem, I'm apt to heed his advice on the topic of college hoops. So, because he's said so on Twitter, I'm holding off on any rush to judgment or condemnation of the Louisville program, particularly on such a salacious subject.


Here's what I found particularly disheartening about this story. More than a few paragraphs in, we find that the book "contends that a woman named Katina Powell was hired repeatedly by former Louisville player, graduate assistant and director of basketball operations Andre McGee to provide strippers and prostitutes during recruits' campus visits."


We are told, again more than a few paragraphs in, "the 43-year-old Powell says she provided entertainment for 22 parties from 20110 to 2014" and that "she and three of her daughters, along with other women, participated in the sex acts.


"Powell reveals in the book that she received more than $10,000 for supplying women for the parties," and also told the publisher "that part of the reason she is doing the book is to make money." (She will receive 10 percent of the book's sales.)

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Am I wrong or is their some sort of suspect irony in a sports news service using a story about sex used to recruit players to (dare I say) solicit readers?

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The bigger/biggest issue here isn't (or at least it shouldn't be) the age-old tactic of using pretty girls to influence/recruit already over-confident and over-zealous, head/cock strong young men. The most disheartening part of the article is that this 43 year old woman, if the story is true, enlisted three of her own daughters to engage in such sex act – and she, by her own admission, profited off of doing so. If ever there was a mother of the year candidate – meet Katina Powell.

Hopefully, if as unfortunate as it would be, if there sadly is truth to her story, the proper authorities read beyond the headline and the lead, and find it fitting to charge Ms. Powell with some version of criminally pimping or pandering, and that they find a way to increase any such charge to include mandatory registry as a sex offender, etc. for pimping-out her own daughters – because that's just disgusting!

What are the chances the Times titles this one, "Woman Whores Out Three Daughters?" My readership may increase exponentially. But, as it isn't likely to happen, I hope you read past the headline and the lead, and all the way to the end.

Because, while it may make me a hypocrite relative to this particular column – that's where the point of this one was.

410-857-7896

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