36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2010
Armstrong, Ken and Nick Perry. Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime, and Complicity. Cloth: alk.paper: 372 pages. University of Nebraska Press (2010) ISBN -978-0-8032-2810-8. Includes bibliographic references and index.
Reviewed by Dick Stull
The title, "Scoreboard, Baby" was former Colorado Buffaloes football coach Rick Neuheisel's retort to comments made by the losing coach who accused Neuheisel's players of illegal tactics on the field. A few years later Neuheisel was paid $1,000,000 to revive the Washington Huskies football program. He delivered a "mystical, magical dream season" in the year 2000, culminating in a dramatic Rose Bowl victory. Armstrong and Perry's thorough and compelling investigation reveals the facts behind a different scoreboard. Four of every five players failed to meet minimum University of Washington admission standards. One out of three players graduated. Twenty-four players on Washington's 2000 football team were arrested or charged with some crime during their years at the university. The authors write:
"Some players do serious damage. Some get used up. A city looks away and the game goes on. Variations of this story-more about culture than sports, more about a community than a team - can be found in colleges across the country. Florida State, Ohio State, Texas A&M. Washington isn't an aberration, it is an example."
Through extensive review of public records and interviews, the authors detail the complicity of Seattle community members, law enforcement officials, coaches, players, members of the legal profession, local media, and the university in this tale of "twisted values."
A sorority student is raped, allegedly by another player. Circumstantial and DNA evidence appears to be conclusive - but not so in the eyes of the prosecutors. The student, a highly personable and outstanding academic achiever, has her life irrevocably changed. Her mother reports her eyes are simply "empty." Police records in this case and in others are "sealed," community service or time served is designated "after football season," "domestic abuse" is not reported, an armed robbery and shooting investigation is stalled. There is the sad Greek tragedy of a fearless, much-admired player who is paralyzed while making a vicious hit. He becomes a martyred symbol for his team and the community but his violent past presents a difficult moral conflict for reporters "in the know" who would like the greater narrative to be about redemption for the player and the team's season.
Armstrong and Perry's skillful setting up of some of the key players' back-stories often reveal the athletes' Jekyll-and-Hyde personalities. Many are well-spoken and are thought of highly by their teammates, their coaches, and members of the media -- but many also show extreme entitlement and ugly, violent behavior. The authors' recounting of the personal hardships encountered by many of them during their early years gives the reader enough context to understand but not excuse their actions. The "demands" of football and their own unrealistic expectations of future stardom make it hard to imagine that all but the most capable, motivated, and highly disciplined of them can get a meaningful academic experience - there simply aren't enough hours in the day. The authors point out the insular world of football, a culture unto itself within the greater university. These things are not new to anyone familiar with division 1 sports, but
it's the dogged reporting of the day-by-day devils in the details that makes Scoreboard, Baby so compelling. You simply can't rationalize away so many facts into simplistic moralistic story-lines.
There are of course courageous and honorable individuals. An academically unexceptional athlete is encouraged by one of his coaches and a committed, caring college advisor to go abroad. He becomes the University of Washington's first athlete to win the Mary Gate's scholarship (established by Microsoft founder Bill Gates) in recognition of undergraduate research or leadership potential. He travels to South Africa and goes through a transformative experience at a small rural school and gets an advanced degree. There are also hardworking people in the system that do their best to do the right thing. Some police investigators go beyond the call of duty. One, a female officer, shows uncommon tenacity and compassion for the rape victim in trying to obtain justice. Another officer refuses to let up on an investigation of a robbery and shooting case involving a star player though he knows it is a highly sensitive community issue.
A further plus of the book is the authors' descriptions of some of the season's games themselves, and, in particular, the Rose Bowl thriller against Purdue. The gripping stories behind the scenes ratchet up the drama and ironies. You are momentarily transported - "The game's the thing!" Alas, this silver lining doesn't convince the reader that the dark clouds of greed won't eventually rain on any parade, however. You already know too much.
The authors' epilogue in Scoreboard, Baby makes it hard to imagine that any fundamental systemic changes can alter the all-too-human temptation towards riches, power and fame - greed is still "good." People will find a way to get around regulations whether it's the SEC and Wall Street, the Minerals Management Service and oil drilling, or the NCAA and college football. Like the revolving door where lobbyists switch hats with regulators on Capitol Hill, coaches and administrators are recycled, reforms come quickly after scandal, but human nature regresses to the mean reality of Mammon.
Past is Prologue? If there was ever a "bread and circuses" break from reality, college football is as good as it gets. The authors set us up in the first chapter. And they're right, as any college football fan can attest. There's nothing quite like the pageantry, the color, the marching bands, the drama, the passion - the thrill of the game. Decades ago in my teens, my dad and I attended a Stanford-USC football game that had Rose Bowl and national championship implications written all over it. Biting into our hot dogs amidst the din just before the opening kickoff, my dad turned to me and said laughingly, "When I was your age my father took me to a meat-packing plant. After seeing what goes into one of these, I couldn't eat a hot dog for 20 years!" Then came the kickoff, and God, what a game it was! Scoreboard, Baby is a much harder truth to digest.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2010
Ken Armstrong's and Nick Perry's SCOREBOARD, BABY like Paul Gallico's classic, FAREWELL TO SPORT, is replete with disturbing facts and allegations. The authors tell an equally disturbing story of college football, crime and complicity -- exposing a community's collective convoluted values -- while back in 1937 Gallico said "Colleges have managed to get themselves involved in a dirty and subversive business." The tale of this business is one of several dimensions and has been told in these and the other revelatory books listed below.
Over the years, revelatory books, reports, essays, and sporadic news stories have had little if any impact on the powers that be in Washington who give every indication of being asleep at the switch. Members of Congress and presidential administrations overlook the fact that there are all too many communities and universities throughout the nation where deep investigative reporting would unearth similar problems and societal passion for professionalized and highly commercialized intercollegiate sports competition. Since there is much in our colleges and universities that is already amiss, the depth of these sports related problems and the intensity of this passion could very well be predictive of the decline and eventual fall of higher education in America from its position of world leadership.
The SCOREBOARD, BABY narrative could serve as a fitting metaphor for the crime, complicity, and convoluted values associated with professionalized college sports in America with a one-to-one mapping of the book's cast of local characters, organizations, and citizens onto corresponding entities on the national scene. Why so?
Looking the other way and declining to act on abundant evidence of widespread wrongdoing is commonly seen to be the best way to keep your job as an elected official, as a government or a college administrator, or as a news media reporter. Likewise, appalling silence and indifference can be expected from non-sports-addicted university faculty, students, and parents, as well as from 'good-citizen' taxpayers across America.
For more, see Serena Golden's August 20, 2010, story based on a Q & A with the authors, ['Scoreboard, Baby' at the insidehighered website], "Scoreboard, Baby Notwithstanding, Things Do Not Bode Well for College Sports Reform in Washington," [Splitt Essays at thedrakegroup org website], Rick Telander's September 3, 2010, Chicago Sun-Times story about the Big Ten's spiel that it's expansion isn't about money," [Derisible by '10' at chicagosuntimes website], and Michael Barone's September 6, 2010, commentary on America's
overstressed system of higher education, [The Higher Education Bubble: Ready to Burst? at the rasmussenreports website].
Book List: James Michner's SPORTS IN AMERICA, Walt Byers' UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT, Allen Sack's and Ellen Staurowsky's COLLEGE ATHLETES FOR HIRE, Murray Sperber's SHAKE DOWN THE THUNDER, ONWARD TO VICTORY and BEER AND CIRCUS, Rick Telander's THE HUNDRED YARD LIE, John Thelin's GAMES COLLEGES PLAY, Andy Zimbalist's, UNPAID PROFESSIONALS, Jim Duderstadt's INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS AND THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, Don Yaeger's and Doug Looney's UNDER THE TARNISHED DOME, Allen Sack's COUNTERFEIT AMATEURS, John Gerdy's SPORTS: THE ALL AMERICAN ADDICTION and AIRBALL, William Dowling's CONFESSIONS OF A SPOILSPORT, Mike Oriard's BOWLED OVER, and Mark Yost's VARSITY GREEN.
Frank G. Splitt, Member
The Drake Group
Former McCormick Faculty Fellow
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
As a Husky fan for almost 50 years, and a Husky season ticket holder for over 25 years, 'SCOREBOARD, BABY' is maddening and frustrating, and while it looks at the UW 2000 team in sharp focus, the atmosphere portrayed at the U-Dub isn't just in Montlake. Star players ALWAYS get preferential treatment. From elementary school to high school, who among us hasn't been frustrated by seeing a jock(or a coach) get away with murder, or at least skipping classes, or getting cush gigs?
The 1969 Washington State boys basketball champs had a number of players busted at a kegger, but were allowed to serve their suspensions after the State Tournament. In the Hugh McIlhenny years of the early 1950's, boosters such as "Torchy" Torrance got players jobs where they were paid while not having to work. In the 1970's, a squad of co-eds was formed at the UW called "Husky Honeys", attractive women that it was hoped would distract visiting players. A friend of mine, a starting linebacker at USC under John McKay was offered a Camaro if he had chosen to play at Nebraska. A restaurant owner I met in Nebraska was the 'designated driver' for coach Bob Devaney when Devaney would get too drunk, which happened almost nightly. In a small town I lived in near Seattle, some coaches opened a drive-in near the high school, and star players only worked the front counter and not on the grill(if they worked at all).
The reviewer who only gave 'SCOREBOARD, BABY' one star calls this book "Poorly cited, inaccurately depicted...", but if you take the time to search for the articles cited, they are on the Web for the reading.
I regularly post on UW fan boards, and on the Seattle Times UW boards, and when I read about this book, I was incensed that anyone could slag The U & my Dawgs like this....but that was before I read the book. I'm still incensed, but I'm not going to cancel my tickets. Whether it's on or off the field, when it comes to Husky Football, I'll just hope for the best.
I loved Jerramy Stevens when he played at the U. I drove to California for the Stanford game where Curtis Williams was injured. I loved seeing Jeremiah Pharms level people, but outside of Stevens, I was unaware of these players' off-field antics. I saw all the UW home games in 2000, plus the Colorado and Stanford games, and loved this team.
By the way, I never trusted coach Rick Neuheisel: from 1996 to 2000, I went to Colorado each fall, and met lots of Buff fans. Their reaction when the UW hired him away from CU was overwhelmingly "Better Seattle than Boulder".
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2011
Wow! Oh wow! I decided to read Scoreboard Baby because of what is going on at Ohio State and the trouble they are in. This book is about the year 2000 football season at the University of Washington.
I didn't think it was going to be this good, but it is!! The stuff these guys got away with because they were football players made the Ohio State stuff look like kid's play. Rape, shooting, drugs, DUI all looked at the other way not only by the school, but the law as well--UNBELIEVABLE! Sad but true. The reporters did an outstanding job of investigating.
This was a real eye opener for me--loved it! If you want to find out the story beyond Saturday college game days, this book is for you.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2010
I'm not a huge college football booster, although the convenience of having Stanford stadium a couple blocks away makes home games a pretty hard thing to not pick up some of the game excitement. But reading Scoreboard, Baby game me a whole new appreciation for the game of college football, and maybe big college sports in general. I guess I was happily ignorant of the complexities of the sport, and the business of the sport. I think back to all the college games I used to go to, and getting swept up in the spectacle and enthusiasm. An easy thing to enjoy and get not think too hard about. Now I doubt I could go to another game and not think about some of the issues raised by this book. I would hope most big college football doesn't remotely have the same level of dubious ethical standards that UW had during this period. But I've seen how money and fame can corrupt in other venues, and its never pretty. I wonder how our hometown team at Stanford deals with these issues and pressures. Its something I'm now motivated to check into.
It would be interesting to take a detailed survey of how the general undergraduate student feels about college sports before and after reading this book. You could probably do a whole psych class on its impact. I can't imagine an intelligent reader, however much a sports fan and team booster, not being profoundly affected. How many books have you read in the last 5 years that you could say that about. I will never look at college sports the same way again.
It's also a fun read. I read the bulk of it on a plane trip to and from Buffalo this week. Hard to put down.
palo alto CA
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2011
The question of ethics and what a collage education is worth has reached its peak in this book, where college football players are protected, coddled, and treated like celebrities ... for a price. And the price is: winning at all costs. But losing their educations and souls in the process.
Though the book is about the U. of Washington, it could be about many schools which have abandoned a clean college game to gain money and prestige. In this case, several of the young players committed serious crimes from rape to armed robbery. And yet they were protected by the school and the legal system in order to see the scoreboard sizzle.
An excellent read, we see that the results of this thinking are very sad. Many players never got an education. And when their ball time was up and they faced the real world, there was no university standing behind them to cover up their mistakes anymore. Some died young. Few received an adequate education. Many, as is the rule, never made it to a lucrative professional career.
The book is a cautionary tale warning us about what college ball has become.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2010
I grew up in Ohio and have lived in Virginia for 24 years, and I have no strong interest in the University of Washington or its football team, but I couldn't put this book down! Scoreboard, Baby is thoroughly reported and wonderfully written. It's an example of sports journalism at its very best, but it's more than that. It will also appeal to anyone who likes true-crime books and to anyone who just likes a great read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2011
The authors of this do a good job of simply presenting the facts and letting them tell the story. They didn't go looking for scandal -- they just lifted the curtain. One Great Read!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2010
Okay, full disclosure, Nick Perry is my brother-in-law, so of course, I'm reading his book. But regardless of my initial motivation, since I picked the book up yesterday, I simply can't put it down. I've been wandering around with it everywhere, and I can't wait to be on vacation tomorrow to keep reading it. It is riveting!
Since I have read many of Nick Perry and Ken Armstrong's news stories here in Seattle, I already know that they are excellent, well-respected, award-winning journalists, but in this book, they get to go deeper, and I am completely drawn in by the fascinating characters in this real-life drama.
I believe this book will prompt important and serious discussion about what cost we as a society are willing to pay to cheer on college athletes, and I hope it also opens our eyes to the price many have already paid.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2012
This is a chilling book. I have been a life long fan of college footballbut increasingly have become alarmed at the corruption and sham of the bcs and the bowls. Now this- I no longer want to be complicit in the crimes comitted by athletics against humanity, all of us. I was ashamed of myself reading this book, that I didn't know - and isn't that how great evil occurs, when good people don't know, or look the other way. Perthaps this and the penn state scandal will finally bring about some necessary reform to college athletics, then again people still give money and are loyal to the catholic church in spite of the abuse of boys that was a systemic problem. NCAA is also part of problem, like a cartel -- an awful great read is how i would describe this book.