Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
You’ve probably heard about the Myron Rolle story by now. Originally discussed (twice) by Stewart Mandel of SI.com and recently followed by an excellent article at MajorLeagueJerk.com, Rolle is an off-the-charts pre-med student at Florida State University where he also just happens to be a superb defensive back for Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles. He’s a guy with an NFL future.
But Rolle has a conflict coming up on November 22. He’s scheduled to be in Birmingham, Alabama for his interview to become a Rhodes Scholar, an amazing opportunity granted to only 32 Americans every year. The list includes such notables as former President Bill Clinton and former Senator Bill Bradley (more on Bradley later). The conflict arises because, on that same afternoon, Florida State has an away football game against Maryland.
THE SHORT TERM ISSUES
The problems arise as follows:
Would Florida State, a perennial football power, support Myron Rolle’s candidacy to become a Rhodes Scholar by allowing him to miss the game to go to his interview in Birmingham? The answer is a resounding (surprising?) “Yes” from coach Bobby Bowden and FSU’s athletic director, Randy Spetman.
Will ESPN, the World Wide Leader in Sports, help out Rolle’s cause by moving the game from an afternoon start to a night-time ESPN game? No word yet, but think of the good will the often-attacked network could receive by doing the right thing here. While FSU-Maryland isn’t the greatest college football game this year, it would be one of the most interesting side stories of the year. Most importantly (for ESPN), don’t you think plenty of people (including non-football fans) would tune in to this game on a Saturday night in November? Yeah, so do I.
In what could be the biggest hurdle of all, will the NCAA grant a waiver to allow Rolle to be flown via charter or private plane from Alabama to Maryland (the only way he can possibly make any part of the game)? Once again, it’s a do-the-right-thing analysis. In the world of NCAA rules (this would presumably be a violation), where up is often down and down is often up, can the NCAA see the obvious and allow this to happen? That remains to be seen.
For better or worse, we’ve seen a lot of rules bent (or disappear or get added) in and out of sports in the last few years. The World Series included an announcement from Bud Selig that a World Series game could never end in less than nine innings due to a rainout (who knew?). In the NHL playoffs, when Sean Avery of the Rangers face-guarded Martin Brodeur of the Devils with his stick, the next day the NHL announced that that would, going forward, be a penalty (who knew?). Even in the 2007 Little League World Series, overworked pitchers who were required to have at least one game played between their starts simply had that rule (poof!) disappear when rain caused a few games to be cancelled (again, who knew?).
While we can argue whether the above three examples are good or bad (as well as New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg leading the charge so he can avoid term limits and run again for Mayor after, just a few short years ago, he was opposed to Rudy Giuliani doing exactly what Bloomberg is doing now), the Myron Rolle issue isn’t even a close call. The NCAA could actually (gasp!) make a few friends if they will only show a heart and allow a potential Rhodes Scholar to interview and play (don’t forget his teammates, NCAA). Rolle originally stated he couldn’t go to the interview because he would hurt the team, but thankfully reconsidered and will go. Hopefully, now, he can play in the game as well.
[Editor’s Note: As of this morning (according to thebiglead.com), Myron Rolle will be allowed to play in the game thanks to ESPN moving it to prime time and the NCAA allowing him to be flown from Birmingham to Maryland. Score one for the good guys.]
THE LONG-TERM ISSUES
Far more interesting, frankly, are the long-term issues for potential NFL player Myron Rolle. It’s interesting to note that Rolle can speak with his friend, former FSU track star Garrett Johnson, who went to Oxford in 2006. He could probably also speak with 2008 Rhodes Scholar Joseph O’Shea, who was student-body president of Florida State (who knew FSU had so many Rhodes Scholars?).
But the best man on the planet to speak with may well be “Dollar” Bill Bradley who, after being the 1965 National Basketball Player of the Year at Princeton (that would be one year after he was the Captain of the 1964 gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic Basketball Team), put off his NBA career to go to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. If you’re an old-time New York Knick fan, you know that Bradley was one of those magical players who would go on to win two championships with (still) the most intelligent NBA basketball team ever.
But many don’t remember that Bradley tried to stay sharp in England by playing in dank gyms and, briefly, in the European League. His stories are legendary about how he tried to stay in shape and play with some (any?) competition. And real Knick fans will remember that, when he did come to the Knicks in 1967, he actually had a lot of trouble (at first) getting back into “game” shape and fitting into the NBA game. Of course, it all worked out, but “Dollar” Bill was a derisive term (due to his big, for the times, Joe Namath-like contract) early on in his pro career.
If Rolle makes the grade (and it certainly sounds like he has a great chance), he’d do well to speak with Bradley about the ups and downs he faced back in the 1960s. Not that Rolle is as great a college football player as Bradley was a college basketball player, but you’d have to think that this kind of opportunity on the academic side leads to amazing challenges on the athletic side. Bill Bradley could certainly help him with the mental side of both of those challenges.
So here’s hoping that everybody does the right thing and that Myron Rolle at least gets to play on November 22 (you old Bradley fans will also get the irony of the Kennedy assassination date) and, more importantly, gets a chance to become a Rhodes Scholar/professional athlete, a rare daily double if there ever was one.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.