My orders from my father as I left for the Philippines in the spring of 1969 were pretty straightforward and unambiguous: get a tattoo and you’ve got no place to return to when you get home on leave.
That may seem a little harsh in these modern times where anything goes, but for my father it was simply a vital edict that I think was prompted by his own younger brother having gotten way too many tattoos during a stint in Japan with the Navy in the 1950’s.
I could have spared him looking like the heavy: I was/am too big of a wussy to have sat still with somebody poking me with a needle for a couple of hours. And besides, I also wouldn’t have wanted to spend the money for something so frivolous when every available penny was needed for more culturally significant undertakings. Insert chuckle here.
But he was concerned about the detrimental effect on my lifelong marketability in the workplace; tattoos were widely connected to a more rough-and-tumble ethos back in those days. By the turn of the recent century, getting those kinds of permanent body enhancements was downright trendy.
I mention all this because a group of five Ohio State football players apparently not armed with my father’s discerning views on the evils of the tattoo parlor have run afoul of those pesky NCAA regulations that seemingly cover every conceivable bit of mischief that a 20-year-old undergrad might encounter.
The various news reports stress that the discounted tattoos are the transgressions of lesser import than the selling of Ohio State awards and rings. Much was made in the players’ passive defense that the money raised with these memorabilia sales were earmarked for the players’ families and were more of a reflection of exceedingly difficult economic times than mere manifestations of greed.
I think that’s a swell nuance that we ought to be pursued in the other direction. The NCAA magnanimously decided to suspend the five players – star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan “Boom” Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams, and reserve defensive lineman Solomon Thomas – for five games next year. Linebacker Jordan Whiting, a red-shirt freshman, will miss only the first game next fall. Maybe he just got one of those teenie-weenie girly man tattoos – a butterfly? – on his ankle.
Perhaps coincidentally, that leaves them eligible to play in the the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4. Whew! Aside from the joy for the players, what a relief for our beloved NCAA that they were able to find some wiggle room in their notoriously stringent regulations that allowed the victimized university to still have these key players available for the most important game of the year.
In the very same difficult economic times that bedevil the five players, the NCAA found itself really, really needing the income from the bowl games and so maybe unconsciously justified forestalling the punishment until next year.
Gee, I certainly hope that the idea of not being eligible to play for more than 1/3 of the season doesn’t drive our student athletes into the waiting arms of the nasty ole professional ranks of the NFL. I guess that would simply be one of those irksome unintended consequences that seem to lurk for just about any significant decisions that we undertake.
You can be sure that the NCAA wouldn’t have wanted to provide for a punishment that would so dramatically conflict with their underlying commitment to the education and growth of the student athletes under their supervision. See, because of the joys of the typewritten word, I am able to get things out that would have likely made me gag if I actually tried to say them out loud.
Now that the edict from my father has presumably expired, I am thinking of getting a tiny “I (heart) the NCAA” tattoo. But only if I can get a local anesthetic to go with it.