As March Madness gears up for another weekend, I thought now might be an appropriate time to recommend a university press book I recently indexed, titled Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime, and Complicity, by reporters Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry.
It's about the University of Washington (in Seattle) Husky football team that won the Rose Bowl in 2001, but it's less about their triumphs on the field (although there's plenty of that action too, for sports readers) than it is about the difficulties many of the football team players caused others and themselves. The two highest profile cases discussed in the book are a rape case and a burglary involving a shooting, so these are not trivial crimes being investigated.
What's REALLY fascinating (in a horribly sad way) about the book is the numerous ways in which family members, friends, team members, school administrators, sports boosters, the legal community, and especially the coaches were complicit in helping to either cover up or delay the cases so that the players being charged with very serious crimes could keep on playing. I was particularly disgusted by the local judges' (many of whom were Husky fans, naturally) lenient sentencing and the prosecuting attorneys' offices reluctance to try cases at all. (They had one suspect dead to rights with both DNA evidence AND an eyewitness and still declined to prosecute.) Another aspect that was eye-opening is how afraid those in power were to "mess up" an athlete's future with criminal charges--as if the victims of the athletes' vicious attacks and crimes hadn't had their futures messed up.
In many ways it's a hard, hard book to read, but it's also very, very educational. And it's very well-written; intensively researched and yet very quickly paced. It's a university press book, but it deserves to be in every public library around, and as a $19.95 paperback, it packs a lot of punch for its price.