Drama in Lawrence!

That was my first thought, and remains for the most part, my assessment of <a href=”http://www2.kusports.com/news/2009/sep/23/witnesses-report-second-altercation-between-basket/”>the nonsense</a> that went on in Lawrence earlier this week between members of the football and basketball teams. The quick version, if you don’t want to follow the links, is that apparently a young lady changed her affections from a member of one squad to a member of the other, creating some bad blood between the old suitor and her new beau. As tends to happen, each fellow’s homies have helped circle the wagons, and after enough harsh words were exchanged, there was at least one fight on campus on Tuesday and another near-fight Wednesday.

Boys will be boys, and all of that. Raise your hand if you’ve never seen a fight between guys in their 20s over a girl. I was once waiting in line for drinks at a sorority formal when the two guys in front of me started swinging at each other. Over a girl, of course. So, to me, that’s not a big deal.

What is a big deal is that A) the members of both teams were too dumb to nip this in the bud and B) according to one source, there is some long simmering bad-blood between the teams. Someone, whether it was a team captain or just someone aware of what was going on, should have told the guys to knock it off. Or, they should have contacted the coaching staffs so they could step in.

Some of the names being tossed around upset me, too. The campus paper reported that both Sherron Collins and Dezmon Briscoe were in the middle of yesterday’s incident. Two guys who are key to their team’s success, likely candidates for post-season honors, and each expected to be drafted next spring. And they’re nearly fighting, in public, with fellow athletes. Not smart.* I’ve seen Tyshawn Taylor listed in the top 12 for next year’s draft. Messing up your hand in a fight isn’t a good way to improve your stock if you’re thinking about jumping early.

Collins keeps talking about one of the challenges for this season is to prove that he can run a team, make smart decisions, etc. I don’t think this will go in his Good Decision Making Examples file.

If the coaches and players have truly gotten on top of the situation and it ends here, it’s not a big deal. Thank goodness J.R. Giddens wasn’t still around to start bashing people in the skulls with bricks. I’ve been following some of the on-line discussions and it seems like a lot of people are far more upset with the language Tyshawn Taylor used on his Facebook page, some of which were quotes from popular music that the youth of today enjoy. They’re worried about the racial overtones of the quotes and how that will affect KU’s recruiting. While I’m beginning to get old enough that I am chagrined at some of the language kids use today, I kind of rolled my eyes at this response. I don’t think any recruits are going to think for a minute about a KU basketball player posting Lil’ Wayne and Biggie lyrics.* While older white folks may find the lyrics odious, it’s not like Tyshawn is the only basketball player in the country into those songs.**

John Calipari might use it against is. “Why would you go to Kansas? Bill Self won’t let you keep it real and post your favorite lyrics to Facebook, Twitter, etc. I understand what those lyrics mean to you. I understand where you’re from. Come play for me and we’ll show all those people who are against a young brother trying to make it in the world what’s what.”

Chances are most of those older white folks have kids who are listening to the same music. Doesn’t make it right, and that’s a whole other conversation, but I’m just saying.

After that long intro, let’s get to what I thought of most after this news broke. I think for a lot of fans, we can’t imagine how players from two teams on the same campus would have beef with each other. “They’re all Jayhawks,” or whoever, “why would they fight?” It misses the point that they’re young men, who tend to fight. They’re athletes, in prime shape, operating with a little extra testosterone (some more than others, perhaps with a little pharmaceutical boost). Turf wars are bound to erupt. Throw in girls, perhaps some beer, and they’re no different than a bunch of guys from different fraternities on the same campus who throw down for one reason or another.

Fans tend to think that all athletes on a campus are part of a tight fraternity. That’s not true. They’re in a bubble to begin with, venturing out only for class (in theory) and the occasional trip to a non-athletic social function. Teams are bubbles within the bubble, seeing others at training table and in the halls of dorms, but mostly sticking together at practice, meetings, and on road trips. While there are certainly some friendships that form across team lines, for the most part teams are insulated from each other. Word has it (shockingly) that the KU basketball players are a bit full of themselves, thinking they run the campus. The football players, in light of their recent success, are looking for respect on campus as much as off. The subtle tension that is always present between revenue sports has been cranked up a notch or two. Throw in the girl situation and you get what we got.

So it’s embarrassing, disappointing, frustrating that this happened. But as long as it ends now, I don’t think it’s something that will damage either program or the university.* I’ll be thankful no one was dumb enough to bring a weapon to the fray. The players should be thankful the worst injury to come out of this was a dislocated finger and bruised egos. Hopefully the jackasses will leave each other alone and get back to winning games and pretending to go to class.

There was a classic comment on one of the public message boards last night. There was the usual “This never happened when Roy Williams was the coach,” nonsense. First off, Roy covered up a lot of stuff while he was at KU. If you were on campus in the 90s, you heard rumors of this and that going on. Everyone in Lawrence was too scared of Roy to let anything go public, though. Bill Self seems to think his players need some freedom and deserve to face public humiliation if they fuck up.** Anyway, one poster responded that the basketball players were too high in the Roy era to get in fights. An argument for letting your guys get baked and then cover up any positive test results.

(It can be argued too much freedom.)

(See Aqib Talib, who, now that he’s subject to the NFL drug testing policy, seems to be awfully eager to throw down.)

(Just seeing if you read these or not.)