Kentucky Basketball: The Failure Of Reason -- Calipari Drives Men Mad

Comes now Dan Wederer of the Fay Observer to bury John Calipari with evidence of wrongdoing.

Well, not really.

What he does do is rehash all the controversy surrounding UK since Calipairi came here, throw in the obligatory bit of UMass and Memphis, and conclude that Calipari is bad for college basketball:

So please, read the 731 words above again and then, with a straight face and sincere conviction, convince me John Calipari is good for college basketball.

Good for fervent and irrational Wildcats fans who derive far too much of their self-worth from the success of their favorite program? Yes.

Good for the sport as a whole? Yeesh.

Go ahead.  Read the whole thing, all 940 words.  It won't bite.  It is misguided, unfair, and typically lacking in logic, but they are harmless words.

The reason I bring this to your attention, dear brother or sister of the Big Blue Nation, is that this is as comprehensive a list of the grievances against the Kentucky coach as you are likely to find anywhere.  It looks like a reasonable argument on its face, which is why so many take this same list of charges and produce their own indictment of Coach Cal -- an indictment which is wrong on many levels.

In America, there are only a few places where people are expected to be perfect at all times.  One of those places is in college coaching positions.  No rascals allowed, no sir.  No mavericks, no rugged individualists, no slick marketeers.  Just plain vanilla, cookie-cutter guys who play by the rules and have absolutely no whiff of impropriety about them.

John Calipari doesn't fit that mold.  He has been around programs tainted with scandal while he was there.  There have been allegations of improprieties against him while he has been at Kentucky.  Take all these together, and you have a lot of smoke, and we all know, where there is smoke, there must be fire.

We all know it, but it's wrong.

I'm not going into my usual factual defense of Coach Cal.  It is pretty well known by now, and honestly, I'm tired of writing it.  What I do want to examine is why Calipari keeps getting tarred over and over again with the same accusations, the defenses for which are well known by now to almost everyone who cares.

The answer comes in how we make value judgments about people.  I recall to you the Duke University lacrosse team rape scandal of a few years back.   Many people will remember that an African American stripper accused members of the white Duke lacrosse team of raping her at a college party.  How is this similar to what is being done to Calipari?  I'll explain.

In the Duke scandal, many Americans had this kind of reasoning:  Privileged white boys at a white-bred university going too far with a black stripper who was demonstrably inebriated at their party?  Yeah, I believe that.

Many people believed that.  It turned out to be wrong.  It made sense, but it turned out to be wrong.

Things that make sense are not always right, and when we make judgments about others without hard evidence against them, we often set ourselves up for being wrong about them.  The prosecutor and many in the Duke University administration were wrong when they adjudged the lacrosse players to be the perpetrators.  Instead, they were the victim.

Coach Cal is also the victim of this kind of thinking.  No, there is no such sordid sexual minutiae like in the Duke case, but the reasoning is the same -- proximity to wrongdoing, or an accusation of wrongdoing, likely equals participation in the wrongdoing.  We have seen it happen many times, and it has.  It is reasonable.  Where there's smoke ...

Coach Calipari was exonerated by the NCAA in the UMass affair.  He was not blamed in the Rose case by the NCAA (although he arguably could have been for the Reggie Rose part).  Would Wederer make the same accusation if Kanter had stuck with Lorenzo Romar in Washington?  Not. Duke was recruiting Bledsoe as late as March of 2009.  No comment, Mr. Wederer?  The Anthony Davis thing is just rubbish.

In the end, though, this is the simple logical fallacy of guilt by proximity.  The Duke lacrosse players were, in the minds of many, guilty by dint of their proximity to the alleged crime, and because factors of America's past and the past actions of similar partiers made the crime believable.  It made sense.  It had to be right.  It looked like a reasonable conclusion.  Many people staked their reputations, even their livelihood on the fact that it appeared reasonable and believable.  Calipari's proximity to other scandals, guilty or innocent, make Wederer's argument appear reasonable and believable.

Reasonable and believable, but wrong.  You'd think a guy from a North Carolina paper would get that.

Assume the guilt and write a piece.  That's the safe way, eh, Mr. Wederer?  Facts?  Who needs 'em?  Proof?  For lawyers.  John Calipari is the Devil.  Off with his head.  This is the integrity of college basketball we are talking about here, right?

Can't take chances with that.

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