Among the great American dreams is the wish that your college team will win all its games, that it will make yard mulch out of the vile, despicable lowlifes across the state or state line, and that it will enable you to rub the defeats in the faces of those same vile, despicable lowlifes across the state or state line.
In this sense, the Baylor women's basketball program stands as a proud American emblem. It dutifully upholds the soaring saying of the late author John R. Tunis: "Losing is the great American sin."
In the successful avoiding of losing -- and two seasons ago it went 40-0 (40-0!) -- Baylor has deployed some aggressive means, even if that hardly makes it lonely among college programs. It has run through a fine gamut of recruiting violations, student handbook violations and a telltale "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
Over the weekend, the WNBA-bound star Brittney Griner told espnW and ESPN The Magazine that head coach Kim Mulkey preferred that Griner not disclose her homosexuality in public while at Baylor, lest it hinder recruiting. If this fear of gay people still holds among some players' parents -- and I'd trust Mulkey on this one -- then it remains significant for athletes such as Griner to come out publicly until the inane stigma finally croaks somewhere down the line.
If still it holds, though, then any college sports fan could sympathize with Mulkey. Not only do matters of s-s-s-s-sex still dredge a strange American squeamishness when discussed openly, but dwarfing that is one of the most serious commandments of our times: You Do Not Harm The Recruiting. The recruiting is precious. National signing days rank up close to Christmas, because the recruiting can bring about validation, then victory, then the chance to annoy the daylights out of your neighbors over the victory. The recruiting brings the avoidance of losing, and losing is the greatest sin.
In fact, the weekend brought more manna on this front, because Griner also said she told Mulkey about her orientation while Griner remained in high school. (What a strong sort. Hooray for her.) In that moment, Mulkey must have faced a dilemma: Do I abide by the standards of my private Baptist school and note that this could be an issue, or do I welcome a dominant 6-foot-8 force and try to win a whole lot of basketball games?
The obvious decision might make you weep patriotically.
As ESPN pointed out, the Baylor student handbook states the school's belief that homosexuality is wrong, and that anyone struggling with it should stop by for counseling. Of course, none of us takes too seriously any student handbook, and none of us much adores the company of those who do during college. There may well have been other times when students did not abide by the handbook; I'm not sure, but I know which way I'd wager were I a wagering sort.
But I know my country -- I've been to every state -- and I know which way the majority would rule when it came down to following the student handbook or winning some damned ballgames.
Win the games, and not only will we cheer for you, but even better than that, we'll refrain from booing you and making jokes about you and dialing up radio stations to say you're an incompetent disgrace who needs immediate replacement with somebody we cannot possibly get anyway.
Enroll the 6-foot-8 force. Hurry.
As goes the handbook, so goes the NCAA rulebook. Our country has a grand tradition of NCAA violations, spanning a hundred-plus years and hundreds-upon-hundreds-plus schools. Secretly, many fans relish these violations as long as they help beget chronic victory. We ought to have a recruiting-violations Hall of Fame, and a recruiting-violations museum, replete with exhibits such as tables for the demonstration of handing over cash beneath them, guides explaining the usage of ATM cards through the years, the best methods for doctoring transcripts, the poignant upgrade of athletes' automobiles through the decades.
Certain coaches could have their own rooms, certain programs their own wings, Southeastern Conference football its own separate edifice.
Oft-overlooked, however, would be Baylor's sterling contribution to this American habit, a case of a singular remarkableness. Baylor won the 2012 national championship on April 3, and by April 11 it emerged that it would get some light penalties for such transgressions as 738 improper text messages and 528 improper phone calls to recruits, plus some improper conversations with the Griner family at times when Mulkey should not have been talking to the Griner family.
Now, most people would say "So what?" to those violations, and they can make a case. Not to mention that anyone could make 1,266 illegal contacts here and there; it's when we get to 1,300 that we should really start to worry. But in a sports domain in which we have had to wait years to learn that champions or Final Four participants didn't really win those championships -- Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, all the removed Final Four participants -- here was a case that saved us so much time.
We ought to be grateful. Here's a stellar American sports program which might have committed sins of the NCAA and ancient religion, but which knows full well that those sins are not as sinful as the great American sin. Baylor has not done very much of that lately at all.