ST. LOUIS—In the audience Saturday at the Final Four, among the 46,000 hoop junkies, sales executives, movie producers, parents, contest winners, beer guzzlers, hip-hop stars and lucky locals who knew somebody who knew somebody, there were two former stars for Michigan State, Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson.
They sat in the stands, in their MSU clothing, and rooted on their alma mater.
The main problem—Cleaves and Richardson weren't, in fact, there. They had planned to be, and told Albom about it beforehand, and he alchemized this material into a nifty past-tense column. Hijinks ensue.
Albom's hilariously buck-passing, teeth-clenching, I-have-caused-pain-to-my-readers column is here. ("It wasn't thorough journalism"—no shit, Sherlock!) The Detroit Free Press' ashen-faced, we-will-investigate apology here; see also Editor & Publisher and Romenesko's letters for fresh heapings of schaedenfreude.
Just to kick a wealthier colleague while he's down, I'll take the opportunity to point out that the thesis of Albom's erroneous column—college players ruin their tender boyhood innocence by accepting million-dollar professional contracts before graduation—is the kind of paternalistic, nostalgia-drenched, anti-capitalist swill that gets served up a thousand times a day in our nation's sports pages, and I reckon it inflicts more damage than lazy reporters pulling the occasional Lewis Lapham. Here's a sample of Albom's gee-willickers prose:
When athletes talk about leaving college early, I always wish they would forget for a moment the financial gains or their draft lottery position. I wish they would think about the fun.
I'm not talking about the fun of seeing yourself on "SportsCenter." You can do that in the pros, too. I'm talking about the fun you take for granted as a 19-year-old because you've never known anything else. I'm talking about plopping on the dorm couch and laughing about nothing, or squeezing in an old car and making dumb jokes about how your buddies smell, or sharing a sub sandwich at 3 in the morning, or putting your speakers out the window of your room, or hanging in the cafeteria for hours on end as the table changes characters, some coming, some going, all friends. […]
How many of us wouldn't trade a year's worth of professional accomplishment for one more year of sharing dorm pizzas?
How many of us would trade a dormitory's impenetrable smell of ass for a $3 million contract? Gosh I'll really have to think about that one.