Gregorian Chants

Columnist Vahe Gregorian offers musings about the sports scene in and around Kansas City

Friday Five: Alex Smith asks for boos, folly of college athletes unionizing, Mizzou’s moves, etc.

05/02/2014 8:54 AM

05/02/2014 4:47 PM

1. In a speech that included demanding the crowd to boo him, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith provided some remarkably candid insights into how he thinks when he gave the University of Utah’s commencement address Thursday night at his alma mater.

Emboldened by his new status as "Dr. Smith," a tag he joked he’s considering having affixed to his Chiefs jersey, Smith set out to prescribe some advice to the approximately 8,000 graduates.

As he explained how anxieties came to handcuff him after he was made the overall No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft by San Francisco, Smith said he’s embraced a three-pronged way of handling himself as a professional: identify his weaknesses, embrace the new and accept what you cannot control.

Toward illustrating the latter, Smith at one point orchestrated the audience to stand and had half of it holler, "You’re a bust!" and the other half yell, "You ruined my fantasy team!"

That scenario really happened, he said, only with 10 times the voices and anger.

"Imagine 80,000 people tearing you apart, and the heartbreak was this was a home game (in San Francisco)," he said, later adding, "We can only control how we react and we respond. And that complex but so simple idea helped me survive. In fact, it actually gave me peace of mind."

Here’s the full transcript.

2. I’m sympathetic to the fact that there is infinite money being made on the labor of college athletes, and that it’s especially galling for those who see others raking in profits directly off their names.

This is a complicated topic worthy of much more examination, as The Star’s Sam Mellinger recently gave it with a

thought-provoking column

on the topic.

But this notion of unionization is somewhere between implausible and silly. It makes no sense on so many levels, and I can’t get past this part of it all:

Scholarship college athletes, particularly in the revenue-driving sports of football and men’s basketball, are being paid the equivalent of roughly $200,000 over four years (it’s hard to picture too many other ways for people that age to earn that kind of money in that span), all possible assistance toward getting their degrees and immeasurable connections that will help them throughout their lives.

The system is a mess, and more can and should be done, but the idea they are indentured servants is absurd.

3. Mizzou has taken plenty of deserved heat over the years for the way it’s handled any number of situations.

But as one graduate reminded me yesterday, it’s made three strong, reassuring statements in the last couple months by how it supported Michael Sam, by banishing arguably its most high-profile football player, Dorial Green-Beckham, for his behavior and by hiring Kim Anderson as basketball coach.

Each of those moves is excellent testament to MU putting action to words when it talks about core values, terms than can come otherwise come off hollow.

4. Along those lines, Mizzou had apprehensions about baggage that might have come with former UCLA coach Ben Howland.

5. When I saw former Raytown South and Mizzou star Jevon Crudup come out in support of Anderson as MU’s head coach in

an interview with The Star’s Tod Palmer

, it made me think of a game Mizzou played at UNLV in 1993.

The chiseled Crudup got ejected from the game with two technicals, at one point in his rage flinging then-assistant coach Anderson out of the way as Crudup tried to get at a UNLV player.

It was a heat of the moment thing, of course, and not indicative of any issues between them.

Anderson laughs about it to this day, and at the time then-coach Norm Stewart defended Crudup in his typically colorful way, winding it in the direction of player-coach relations.

"If I yell at a player, and he yells back at me, it doesn't bother me if it's under the right circumstances," Stewart said. "I mean, if I'm yelling at him, why the hell can't he yell at me? I like for them to be interested. . . . That's kind of a good response sometimes."

Asked how he would have reacted if Crudup had shoved

him away, Stewart laughed and said, "Well, I probably would have been lying on the floor."

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