March Madness. Aside from birthdays of two of my brothers, March Madness is what makes the month of March worthwhile.
I’m not all that fond of March. March temperatures are very fickle in Ohio. It could be balmy, but more likely its snowy. If it’s above freezing, March in Ohio can be very muddy. Mud is probably my number one gripe about March. Melting snows sometimes close roads because of too much standing water, and those in flood plains should be wary. March is quite windy, and I don’t much care for really windy conditions. The leaves are not back on the trees yet, so the landscape looks rather stark and inhospitable. Not too long ago, March was made even worse by moving the start date of Daylight Savings Time from April. I’d like to remain on Standard Time year-round.
I have plenty of similar gripes about April, too, but at least the Cleveland Indians baseball season gets underway.
Ohio gets really pretty in May. I think the lush green beauty of Ohio reaches the peak of its perfection around Memorial Day weekend.
I’m getting ahead of myself. I love college basketball, men’s or women’s teams. I love it far more than I do NBA basketball. I graduated from Ohio State. I’ve always been a fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes. I bleed Scarlet and Gray.
The Buckeyes are expected to do well this year. I won’t hold my breath, because I’ve seen them lose so many NCAA tourney games that they weren’t supposed to lose, but I’m not feeling nervous–on edge–apprehensive–like I usually do at this time of year. For some reason, I feel calm. Maybe that’s a good omen. Maybe that means that this year, finally, OSU, a number 1 seed in the men’s tournament, triumphs. Or, if the men stumble, perhaps the OSU women, a lower seed (4), will surprise everyone in their tournament.
I have a brother and a sister who graduated from Brigham Young University, so I keep tab on their sports teams, too. Both the men’s and women’s teams seemed to be on autopilot, in control of their destiny, both of them dominating the Mountain West Conference, and the men’s program getting a lot of national buzz with the nation’s leading scorer, Jimmer Fredette. There was even some anticipation that the BYU men would even receive a number 1 seed in the tournament.
Then there was a bump in the road.
The BYU women did not win the post-season tourney of the conference they dominated all season long. They didn’t even receive an invite to the women’s NCAA tournament. They had to settle for the WNIT, instead.
Jimmer Fredette, though wowing spectators across the nation with his stellar on-court achievements, cannot do all of the work of the men’s team by himself. There are five men on the court for each team at all times, and Jimmer needs those four other men or Jimmermania isn’t even possible. BYU usually has 5 solid players on the floor, but many of the players coming off the bench are unproven. It is widely acknowledged that BYU is not a deep team.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Brandon Davies, the team’s leading rebounder, was kicked off the team and out of school for the rest of the season. He’d committed no crime, nor had he violated any NCAA rules, yet the decision by the university’s administration to dismiss him was final. There was no going back on the decision. There was no further appeal that would receive consideration.
All of a sudden, one of the nation’s premier men’s basketball teams was an also-ran, Jimmer Fredette notwithstanding. The team was not the same team as it used to be. Over the course of the bulk of the season, BYU had only suffered two losses. During the very brief stretch of the season after Davies was dismissed, BYU went down to defeat two more times.
Instead of a number 1 seed, BYU received a number 3 seed. Many sports pundits believe a number 3 seed, for a BYU team without Brandon Davies, is way too generous. BYU was blessed with a number 3 seed as a congratulatory hat-tip for the success they’d had over the course of the season, not because anyone believes them to be that good now that Davies is gone.
BYU won its first tourney game yesterday, against Wofford. The win was expected, but it wasn’t stellar. The game wasn’t particularly intense, as college basketball games go. BYU’s win would’ve been lopsided with Davies on the court, but without him, BYU never amassed much of a lead.
Even before tourney play began yesterday, the talking heads were saying that the number 11 seed, Gonzaga, would be the one to win the first two rounds and advance to the Sweet 16. Gonzaga has fulfilled half of that expectation, already, having beaten the number 6 seed, St. John’s, last night. Tomorrow, BYU and Gonzaga will be facing off against each other. Is BYU really all washed up? Maybe. We’ll find out more about that tomorrow, I suppose.
What was the reason for Davies dismissal in the first place that caused this trainwreck and possibly have even cost the BYU Cougars a first-ever national championship? He’d violated the student honor code, a pledge of high ethical standards that all BYU students must promise to abide by prior to enrollment.
Almost all students are privately screened by Mormon pastors (there are small variations in the screening process for non-Mormon applicants, but the promise to follow the student honor code is required of all BYU applicants) to assure that the applicants already conform to the standards of the honor code prior to admission and re-enrollment. The nature of Davies’ violation wasn’t discussed by the university, but Davies, himself, acknowledged the nature of it to his teammates, and physical intimacy (consensual) with his girlfriend was apparently at the heart of the matter. I can’t imagine that any other NCAA Division 1 university in the U.S.A. would have dismissed Davies on these grounds. BYU’s expectations of students are incredibly high, and, quite frankly, most late teens and 20-somethings wouldn’t put up with such stringent rules.
I think BYU did the right thing.
Brandon Davies is a much more positive role model than me. My conduct over the course of my adult life is far more checkered than Davies’ is. I assure everyone that I approve of Davies’ dismissal knowing full well that, by no means, am I holier than he is. For me, it boils down to this: Does BYU excuse a violation by a prominent student-athlete just because they want to win a national championship? Or, instead, is BYU fair to every student because no student is excused from fulfilling the pledge, not even a star athlete whose name is famous among all die-hard men’s college hoops fans throughout the nation? The university administration had no doubt in its mind that being fair by holding every single student to the same standard was far more important than a championship. I think they’re right.
What about second chances? Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance? Sure they do, and life will provide Brandon Davies’ with second, third, fourth, fifth (and so on) chances over the decades to come. In my own life, I’ve been given many chances for redemption, too. I don’t know if Davies feels as if his world has crumpled around him or not, but I know that it truly hasn’t. The world keeps spinning. The sun keeps rising. The calendar keeps advancing. Life’s journey for Brandon Davies can be a very rewarding one, and this moment of his life can become just a blip on the radar.
He just can’t play basketball for BYU right now.
Though he’ll get second chances, the immediate consequences for the violation cannot be circumvented or else the university would be entirely unfair to its whole student body. The second chances will have to materialize in some other form. Playing this tournament with BYU is out of the question.
Fairness to the student body, harumph! What about fairness to the team? Why should the team be penalized for one person’s infraction that wouldn’t count as an infraction at any other university in the nation? Is it fair that the BYU team has to adhere to a very different standard than that of all the teams they play against? So why is it fair to dismiss a player and hurt a whole team because of something that doesn’t matter anywhere else?
This is where it gets political, as it reminds me of one of the reasons I’m not a Libertarian.
The Libertarians I’ve known have repeatedly decried nanny-state governance. Why should the government tell us not to grow marijuana, or even smoke it? Why should the government restrict gambling? Why forbid prostitution when adult participants willingly consent to it? Why must I wear a seat belt while driving my automobile? Why should I allow government to make decisions for me and take away my personal liberty just because they believe their decisions are for my own good? If I make a decision that isn’t for my own good, I could create some trouble for myself, but isn’t that my concern and no one else’s?
Libertarians also decry the tyranny of the majority. Why should a portion of revenues from a county sales tax be set aside for public transit that so few people actually use? Why pay property tax to a school district when none of those students are my own children? Why does city hall, against my own wishes, install speed bumps on our street just because most of my neighbors want them? And why do zoning ordinances restrict what I can do on my own property just because those ordinances are deemed to be for the benefit of all? If I don’t agree with the majority opinion, why can’t I opt out?
My response to all these questions is that no human being is an island.
The consequences of what we do does not stop with us. It ripples far beyond us. If I create trouble for myself because of my own bad decision, it IS of concern to others, because others are linked to me, and therefore are impacted.
If you choose to be an alcoholic, you might cause the rest of us to have higher insurance premiums. You might collide with me while you’re driving. You might use your money on alcohol rather than the mortgage payments and the resulting foreclosure lower my property’s value. You might not maintain your property well and and the rest of us neighbors have to contend with the vermin that migrate from your property. You might get in violent fights with your spouse and disturb the peace in the neighborhood. You might act inappropriately in front of my children. You are not the only one who would suffer from your incorrect choices, therefore the law limits your personal liberties regarding alcohol consumption. The government isn’t just protecting you from yourself. It’s protecting the rest of us, too.
When laws are enacted in accordance with the will of the majority, opting out would decrease cooperation, which would increase friction, which would disrupt order, which could disintegrate our society into a lawless one. A disordered, lawless society would only increase individual liberty if one had hegemonic power over others who might stand in the way. Somalia is a disordered lawless place, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no system of governance. Government exists wherever people interact together. If there isn’t a system of laws to govern those interactions, and if persuasion fails to govern those interactions, then force governs those interactions. That’s why warlords tussle with each other in lawless regions such as Somalia, because governance of interactions is determined by successful physical aggression and cunning. Opting out can easily lead to a far more malignant tyranny than the “tyranny of the majority” that exists in the U.S.A.
The spillover effects of Brandon Davies’ dismissal from the men’s basketball team at BYU illustrates that the impact of one person’s actions, the exercise of one person’s liberties, for good or ill, ripples beyond self. Opting out of Davies’ obligations separated him from the community he was once a part of. Both Davies and that BYU community suffer because of the breakdown of order.
Libertarianism, even in a nation far less ordered than the BYU community, yields these very same consequences, and at several levels of magnitude greater.