by Dr. Tommy Whittler
Three University of Alabama football players were dismissed from their team for robbery and one player for the illegal use of a credit card. As I read this story, USA Today (2/28/13, 3c), I was reminded of a comedy starring Eddie Murphy as street con Darnell Valentine and Dan Akroyyd as young financier Louis Winthrop. Two, crusty barons decide to conduct a “social experiment” unbeknownst to these two young men. Through deception, the barons placed Valentine in Winthrop’s position on the finance board, while reducing Winthrop to a common street thug. Predictability, when provided the niceties of life, Valentine transforms into a trustworthy and moral character. In contrast, when removed from his lofty finance position and social status, Winthrop descends into dishonesty and thievery.
As I pondered the fates of these four Tide football players, I see nothing funny in this tragedy. These young men just played (and won) in the BCS Championship Football game in which Alabama completely dominated Notre Dame. Each team received upwards of $22 million for participating in this one game. The coaches, Nick Saban (Alabama) and Chip Kelly (Notre Dame) received nearly $1 million bonuses for appearing in the championship game. Each coach earns $5 million a year in salaries.
The players’ bounty for their efforts that produced nearly $50 million dollars: Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Thus, I am not surprised by these individuals’ behavior just as I was not surprised by Louis Winthrop’s behavior in Trading Places. But a few questions come to my mind: Had these young men been awarded monies according to their talents and efforts would they have committed these crimes? Why would they steal if they had sufficient cash to purchase the rather small items they stole? And “trading places” for a second, would accomplished adults behave morally if they went unpaid for their efforts?
It’s tragic that these young men committed these acts. I cannot imagine that their lives will improve given that they may neither receive an education nor play professional football. I have to believe these actions were done in part because of a lack of finances, which makes no sense given that they just participated in a venue that generated a lot of money.
Tommy E. Whittler, Ph. D.