Thursday, May 26, 2011
'South Park' fixes glare on NCAA
By Eamonn Brennan
If you're a large organization, popular religion, famous person, or news-making entity of any kind, you should live in fear of "South Park." No television characters in the history of the medium have the same ability to definitively satirize and expose quite like the denizens of that sleepy mountain town.
Guess who got the treatment Wednesday night? That's right. The NCAA.
South Park took on the NCAA's concept of amateurism in particularly brutal form Wednesday, dressing character Eric Cartman in plantation owner garb, giving him an exaggerated southern accent, and sending him to speak with the fictional president of Colorado University. When Cartman refers to student-athletes as "slaves" -- a comparison familiar to anyone who has read New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden's book "Forty Million Dollar Slaves" -- the dean explains that "there are very good reasons our student athletes can't be paid."
Cartman's response: "Student ath-o-letes? Oh, that is brilliant suh!"
Yep. As with any episode of "South Park," the knives come out early and often.
Of course, this is just the latest bit of mainstream criticism for the NCAA we've seen in recent months. In late March, in the thick of the NCAA tournament, PBS news magazine "Frontline" aired a no-holds-barred examination of the current class action lawsuit against the NCAA. In doing so, "Frontline" spurred a thousand more "the NCAA is hypocritical!" arguments, and did so right as the organization was preparing to host its marquee event, the Final Four.
"South Park" may not have been quite so, ahem, restrained. Or nuanced, for that matter. But if we know anything about the show from its takedowns of Tom Cruise, Kanye West and many more, Cartman has a way of making caricatures, whether fair or unfair, stick.