Lowell Bergman and the Real Madness of March

by on April 10, 2011 · 7 comments

in Civil Rights, Sports

Editor: Below you will find a piece by David Sirota about recent investigative efforts by Lowell Bergman, local boy, former 60 Minutes producer, and one of our heroes for helping to inspire the original OB Rag from the pages of the San Diego Street Journal. Here are posts about Lowell Bergman here and here.

By David Sirota / TruthDig / April 8, 2011

Lowell Bergman is the rare skunk who regularly finds his way into the power elite’s garden parties. As tobacco executives celebrated huge revenues in the 1990s, he was the journalist whose reporting about cancer and nicotine addiction stopped the festivities. As credit card executives toasted their holiday-season profits, his 2004 New York Times investigation humiliated the lending industry by showing how it traps unsuspecting consumers in perpetual debt. So it was no surprise that as the sports establishment concluded its perennial orgy of profit known as March Madness, Bergman was at it again, this time exposing the corruption beneath all the school spirit.

In Bergman’s damning special now available on PBS’s “Frontline” website [all three parts are in links in original article – go here], viewers are shown the side of “amateur” athletics that’s almost never discussed inside the beery bubble of sports media. We see, for instance, an NCAA that makes billions off television contracts, while student athletes receive only a tiny fraction of that revenue in the form of scholarships. We see coaches making millions off long-term contracts, while players remain perpetually at risk of losing their meager financial aid. We see, in short, an Athletic-Industrial Complex that turns schools into support systems for sports—rather than the other way around.

Commenting on the perverse situation, fellow investigative journalist Michael Lewis told Bergman that the typical fan “shouldn’t care unless you have some weird obsession with justice.” But that’s not true in the age of strapped budgets and skyrocketing tuition. Fan or not, justice fetishist or otherwise, the scandal should concern every American taxpayer because we’re all paying a price.

Today, the vast majority of college athletic departments run operating deficits. In 2009 alone, that meant “about $1.8 billion in student fees and university funds went to cover gaps,” according to USA Today—and much of those fees and funds are those of taxpayer-owned public universities.

For the remainder of this article, and for links to the PBS videos, go here.

David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

tj April 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm

“As credit card executives toasted their holiday-season profits, his 2004 New York Times investigation humiliated the lending industry by showing how it traps unsuspecting consumers in perpetual debt.”

You know what the revolving credit industry’s term is – for people who pay off in full their revolving credit balances every month?

Dead beats.

Why – it seems counter intuitive?

Because the fiscally responsible who don’t carry over balances – generating far less income (blood money) for the banks who issue the cards & want to get their exorbitant interest – so in the twisted world of greedy revolving credit Bankers – those who don’t over extend themselfs are the “bad customers,” ie: “dead beats.”

Really, bankers are about as human as piranhas.


Shane Finneran April 10, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I’m sitting in Sacramento Airport right now, and just saw a couple dozen members of a track and field team from a Utah university making their way through the airport.

I had to wonder how much their trip cost, and how much value us taxpayers get out of shipping students around the country to run races and play games.


tj April 11, 2011 at 8:04 am

Our obsession with “winning” is one of the major problems we face in our battle for a “kinder, gentler nation.”

For someone to win – someone else has to lose.

That mentality when taken out of the sports arena – is a sickness that has brought our country on the downhill side of ruination.

People worth tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of millions – still fighting tooth & nail to get more for themselves – before they kick the bucket.

What a brilliant way to live – before they die.


RB April 11, 2011 at 9:42 am

Everyone who plays and competes is a winner.
The losers are on the couch with a bag of chips.
PLHS will be having a track meet, Wednesday April 20.
It’s free so all you track experts, just need to bring your bag of chips.


Shane Finneran April 11, 2011 at 10:07 am

Just to be clear, friend, I’m all about team sports in high school and college. Just not sure that — in an era when we’re firing teachers and cutting classes and shutting students out — we need to spend as much on it as we do. Or flying teams from one state to another to compete, when there is no shortage of competitors within a few hours drive.


RB April 11, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Thanks…I understand now.


Frank Gormlie April 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

And as if on cue, … : Star USD Athlete Helped Fix Games: Feds


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