The Mercy Rule

Just Another Yacht-Sex Scandal

By David Roth

Other than a puffy-faced Jose Canseco talking about himself in a Jacuzzi, or some sour-faced Russians doing cocaine in a garish nightclub bathroom, the current scandal consuming the University of Miami football program is basically the most Miami thing anyone could ever imagine. The central figure is Nevin Shapiro, a coarse Brooklyn transplant with a taste for tight t-shirts, bottle service, and Cristal-on-escort-breasts excess, who—for bonus Miami Points—made his millions as the mastermind of a Ponzi scheme. Shapiro's obsession with the Miami Hurricanes, the gaudiest institution in America's tackiest city, led to his funding of an eight-year orgy of gifts and parties that no one was shocked to discover last week.

For the millions of dollars (that he stole from other people) that Shapiro spent on the Hurricanes, he got a few aboveboard perks—a suite named (and later shamefacedly un-named) in his honor in a football dorm, the opportunity to lead the team onto the field before two games—plus whatever behind-the-scenes skeevy delights a 30-something man gets from hanging out on his yacht with buff dudes half his age, or from buying selfsame buff dudes lap dances, SUVs, and $50 steaks. (Check, check, check, and check on the Most Miami List, by the way.) All of this has been documented with admirable, wince-inducing granularity by Yahoo's Charles Robinson, who will probably win a Pulitzer for his 11 months of work corroborating this felon's creepo boasts. Long story short, Shapiro did a lot of bad things right under the nose of an institution that happily allowed a champagne-sodden gambling addict of a booster to do his thing for nearly a decade without ever noticing what his thing was.

Shapiro has indubitably earned himself a lifetime achievement award in the field of Starfucky Football-Booster Creepery by paying for all those players (Robinson interviewed 72 of them) to live in what was basically a never-ending Rick Ross video. Miami is in line for some very serious sanctions, because it is technically against the rules to let college athletes take a bunch of money and gifts from a skeezeball like that. And Robinson is in line for a bunch of awards, which he more than earned for spending 11 months in frequent conversation with someone whose highest aspiration in life was getting his picture taken with Kellen Winslow Jr. (and also for nearly losing his mind in the process). So why doesn’t this feel like a big victory for muckraking journalism, or anyone or anything else?

I think it's because the whole affair is only distinguished by the scale of the impropriety. For the delusional dad-types who are college football's most ardent fans, it’s just like every other booster/recruitment/academic scandal—another bad apple to smash. For the bloated, toothless, albino hippopotamus of a regulatory agency known as the NCAA, it's a chance to make some virtuous noise and remind its cynical-sentimental fans that it punishes wrongdoing. But for anyone interested in seeing college football become even marginally less exploitative, the story is just an unusually juicy act in a long, long play about how fundamentally fucked the economics of big-time athletics are.

If it seems like Shapiro's greasy excesses are familiar, that would be because they are familiar: Underneath all that gaudy yacht-sex and distinctively Floridian sleaze, what this exposé brings to light is something every college football fan already knows—that as long as college football's billions of dollars in revenue are not shared with the players who create them, the players will find a way to get paid anyway, and Shapiro-grade creeps will be there to pay them. We might not get the same ridicu-tarded levels of Miami-fied excess next time we hear this story, but we damn well ought to be prepared to hear it again.

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