Gale Boetticher explains upon his introduction as Walter White’s lab assistant in Breaking Bad he has no moral qualms about drug manufacturing. His fictional ethos that adults should have the freedom to make such choices is commonplace among real life opponents to the War on Drugs, but no amount of opposition changes the fact drug production, trafficking and possession is illegal. As a result, society’s criminal element controls the trade.
There are advocates of paying high dollar producing college athletes — in other words, football and basketball players — who generate millions for universities, administrators, coaches, clothing manufacturers and video game producers but see not a cent of it. Similarly, athlete pay’s illegality diverts the practice down a backalley route paved by seedy characters. Few have been as seedy as Nevin Shapiro.
The correlation between the grounded-in-reality storylines of a TV series and the all-too-real happenings in a college football program may seem thin. But after reading seemingly endless strings of allegations leveled at Miami football via Yahoo! Sports, some of what is being reported produces the same stomach punch feeling of Jesse Pinkman’s trashed house in Bad Season 4. Furthermore, that the perpetrator and source of said allegations is a bonafide felon, well, “criminal element” is not just a euphemism.
Shapiro hid his criminality in plain sight, not unlike Gus Fring. The facade of legitimate business hid his investment in winning football, funded by illegally wrought Ponzi scheme funds. And like Fring, at the sight of trouble, his allegiances turned. As the point atop a Ponzi pyramid, Shapiro was nothing more than a thief and indeed, there is truth to the adage there’s no honor among thieves.
A 20-year jail sentence and nonstop criminal probes likely forced Shapiro’s hand — come clean with everything or face further repercussions. Yet, reports surfaced Shapiro is entertaining the idea of a tell-all book. Any hypothetic tell-all is just furthering exploitation of young men barely removed from boyhood, which is what everything about Shapiro’s relationship with Miami athletes boils down to.
Shopping sprees and expensive nights out hardly equate to desperate necessities, but dangling luxury before young men who have never experienced it is a dangerous enticement. And it is pure exploitation. Fring exercises it in Breaking Bad, exploiting Walt’s need for cancer treatment for financial gain. Shapiro offered teenagers and early 20-somethings lives worlds removed from tumult many of them came from in exchange for status.
The ability to say no to questionably motivated characters offering too-good-to-be-true realities is not easily cultivated. Being unable to rarely ends well, and Miami finds itself staring down the figurative barrel of a gun like Gale Boetticher at Bad‘s Season 3 conclusion. On both ends of that barrel in this art-meets-life parallel are innocents.
Players connected to Shapiro are still in the program, but Al Golden was not head coach for this era. Golden has conducted himself with professionalism and sought victory the right way. He’s asked all players to be honest and cooperative with the NCAA. But his efforts aren’t likely to alter an unenviable fate awaiting the Hurricanes.
A certain irony amid this scandal breaking is Miami was most talked-about in the last few years for its portrayal in the ESPN 30 For 30 documentary “The U.” Whereas Bad uses fiction to decry a seamier facet of society, “The U” almost exalted the non-fiction transgressions in the program’s past.
Is the answer to pay the players and avoid letting those who want to cling on for status having so much influence? This blogger certainly believes so. The clout of nefarious outside influences such as Shapiro’s will never completely disappear, but if cutting off much of their power at the source can cut some of his ilk away it can only be seen as a good thing.