Monday, July 19, 2010

Marvin, Greg, Weslye And Barry, Oh My!

A regular reader here was surprised last Friday when I opted to write about a Blue Devil and not the Tar Heels. I chose to report on the Tribeca Tavern Blue Devil Burger and not about the NCAA’s freshest meat: the North Carolina Tar Heels’ Marvin Austin and Greg Little who reportedly have been interviewed by NCAA reps for some sort of alleged wrong-doing with an agent or something like that by the highest collegiate governing body in the land until President Obama decides the Justice Department needs to intercede and strike down unrighteous and unfair and down-right stupid rules and regulations by which colleges and their athletes are supposed to live.

I passed on UNC last Friday because, well, I didn’t have as much information as I wanted and needed and by the time I started to put fingers on the keys and words on the screen, the burger at Tribeca was a lot more appealing that what two football players at North Carolina were or were not doing with an agent or anyone else. It’s not surprising to me what college athletes with superior abilities do—purposely or not—to enhance their earning power as they move through minor league… college …football on their way to being professionals.

But today is different. More info means a lot more fun. What pushed me to jump into today’s subject was the revelation Sunday that Weslye Saunders, tight end at the University of South Carolina, son of The News & Observer controversial columnist Barry Saunders, and Durham native, is also involved in the NCAA look into wrong-doing. Reportedly, he has been interviewed by NCAA investigators about who paid for what on a trip to Florida earlier this year.

To those who know Weslye, it is surprising that he would be involved in doing anything wrong other than choosing to go to South Carolina instead of North Carolina when he had that option because he and Greg Little spent a lot of growing up time with each other while playing for different high schools in Durham at the same time. Over there, some of the thinking is that they would matriculate to the same college. But that didn’t work out. Seems as if Barry, the N&O writer, didn’t like the UNC offer. For some odd reason, Duke was not in the loop in that one.

What’s also surprising about Weslye is that he has no reason at this point to get involved with an agent because his daddy, Barry, is close friends with a Durham lawyer and sports agent, James D. “Butch” Williams, and Weslye has been friends and playmates with Mr. Williams son, Marshall. If indeed, Weslye, Marvin and Greg are involved in some non-NCAA sanctioned and allowed activities with an agent, let’s do hope for their sake and the reputation of North Carolina and South Carolina that’s it’s all a misunderstanding and involved some sort of backyard barbeque at the home of the aforementioned Mr. Williams.

Of course, Mr. Williams, for all we know, is not involved in this whatsoever. It has to do with someone paying for the threesome going to Miami earlier this spring on someone else’s tab. Funny thing about three people going to Miami at the same time at someone else’s expense. I guess lightning strikes in the same place at different times. (If you’re lost, think Miami Heat, LeBron, Wade, Bosh.)

But the story doesn’t end there. Let’s tie this into a nice bundle that’s more exciting to me than the pristine reputation of our brethren in Chapel Hill being tarnished over the allegations and the investigation and the bullet dodging. It has to do with Daddy Saunders and his employer and his no-comment to his employer’s employees. While the story originated with ESPN’s Joe Schad, it was quickly picked up by the website which is not the official site of the University of South Carolina which is The website is the property of The State newspaper of Columbia SC, and The State is the property of McClatchy which owns The News & Observer which employees (I assume he’s still on the regular payroll) Barry Saunders.

While there are tons of people who dislike Saunders and the basic tone of his columns, I know he’s more of a teddy bear based on his presentation and questions and answers during a meeting of the N&O’s Community Panel a couple of years ago when I was a member of the now defunct committee of non-N&O employed people who gathered once a month to critic the newspaper and offer suggestions for making it better, some of which was taken seriously and some of which was not. In that meeting, Barry basically told us not to take him too seriously. His job, he told us, is to drive readership through his writing, that he didn’t necessarily believe everything he espoused, that he knew what to say and when to say it to rile the reader and bring in more viewership, his primary job. So, when you read Barry’s column, consider what I just said and don’t get your dander up.

But, while he came across as a teddy bear to the Community Panel, there’s one person who today doesn’t believe that. He’s Weslye. I have it on good authority from those who know Weslye and Barry that if younger Saunders has done something wrong according to NCAA standards, whether the standards are right or wrong in the eyes of anyone, Weslye has more to worry about than NCAA sanctions against him and how his coach Steve Spurrier will deal with it. He has to worry about how Barry is dealing with it and will later.

I’m not surprised that Barry will not say anything to anyone about the situation. He’s not stupid by any means and publically I think he will let the story play out. But, Barry and his son are also being protected by Barry’s employer, at least by those who control the news articles in the print and on-line editions. What’s interesting is that the Sports Editor of The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer is the same person. The N&O offered a lip-service version of the Weslye situation today while the Charlotte Observer and website offered an article written by The State, a little closer to the source and a little more in-depth. In that story was the line: "Saunders was suspended from the team for approximately a week in January because of attitude problems and his failure to attend the first team meeting of the spring semester." While that suspension at that time of year really doesn’t mean anything, I wonder why The N&O just didn’t go with the story that was better and not a re-write just to get a local by-line. Probably because the N&O sports staff (those in Raleigh) are not very deep when it comes to writing about anything.

So, to my reader who wanted to know why not write about this stuff last Friday, I still contend that last Friday, the Blue Devil Burger was a better subject. But today, with the direct connect to The News & Observer through Barry Saunders and the weak coverage by its sports staff, it’s much sexier.

By the way, while it’s fun to watch North Carolina faithful to squirm and yell “witch hunt,” the winner in all of this with Marvin Austin, Greg Little and, now, Weslye Saunders, if there is one, is Quan Sturdivant who now takes a back seat to alleged wrong-doing by Carolina athletes, both North and South.

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