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Sam Keller… Entry #1 for Sports Douche of the Year

It may come as a surprise to some of the OTP faithful that gaming in the ancient times of Sega Genesis or worse, the original Nintendo didn’t come with any sort of fancy appointments. In fact, looking back, most of us were suckers to continue to waste valuable allowance or precious real estate on our Christmas Lists for sports titles that would force you to play as QB8 or WR88.

It was a slow transition to the names showing up in professional sports, and even then there were a few random holdouts. Randall Cunningham springs immediately to mind as someone who was always not included. You sort of knew who it was, but it was still minorly frustrating. As next-generation consoles, titles, and franchises like Madden, or the NCAA series began to really become a major player in the gaming world, the need for authenticity and realism grew with it.

What began as someone spending a couple hours doing the team they were playing with (guilty as charged) blossomed into full fledged roster creators who would spend days editing depth charts, appearances, equipment, and ratings for all 100 or so Division 1-A teams. A roster community quickly flourished and now it’s as easy as downloading something via XBOX Live or PlayStation’s network. All ridiculously simple, all made that way because of the developers (EA Sports) wish to have the game be as realistic as possible.

The reason EA cannot simply do it themselves is because of amateur athletes and their inability to receive likeness rights, etc. It would violate their ability to play the sport for which they are being featured. An interesting twist of irony, and apparently a real point of contention for former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller, who in true American fashion, is suing EA Sports.

I am no legal mind, and as such, will leave the legal merits or lack thereof to one Clay Travis

But here’s a legal dilemma for you, the NCAA doesn’t allow athletes to make money off their sport. That’s why the fig-leaf of not using the player’s names exists in the first place. Earlier this week I wrote about how ludicrous the jersey issue was. Namely that the universities and their sponsors make so much money off the players by not putting their names on the back. So procedurally how could a player ever collect and retain his eligibility?

Think about this, say EA pays out $20 million to settle the lawsuit. There are 4k or so players on every game. Each of them is entitled to payment for the appropriation of their likeness. Only the NCAA forbids the use of their images for commercial gain. So they’ve won a settlement (a judgment could happen too but there’s no way a case like this ever goes to trial), but they can’t collect if they want to keep playing college football.

How ridiculous would that be? Even if the payments went to the players after they graduated, they’d be retroactively rewarded for their payment. Which is still illegal, because they’re being paid for something they did while playing the sport. So the entire NCAA record book would have to be wiped clean because every player accepted improper benefits.

Yeah… he’s good.

The alternative solution would be to randomize rosters. DO NOT WANT. Granted, the roster community would fix it all, but it’s wasted effort and a fix for something that isn’t really a problem. Keller’s attorney says, “[Keller is] not interested in getting compensated for himself. He just didn’t think it appropriate that, given that the NCAA says you can’t profit from your likeness … they do the wink and the nod when EA Sports presents them with the game, which has the likeness of the player.”

My, my, Sam… how altruistic of you. I’m sure the fact that no one can get paid for this lest they vacate their eligibility, record books would become moot, etc. matters not to you. You’re fighting the good fight. The fight that no one was complaining about before you sauntered into the video game world and proceeded to piss all over our parade. Am I right in thinking that should EA Sports decide to compensate you that you would give it all back? No? Ok… didn’t think so.

I mean, while we’re fighting the altruistic good fight, let’s ignore some things, shall we, and just focus on those pesky video games. Nevermind the fact that colleges, universities, and conferences make millions of dollars hand over fist on the work, sweat, and injuries of NCAA athletes. Pay no mind to the glaringly obvious problem with a tournament that generates billions of dollars of revenue to schools that the kids who play in don’t see a dime of. Having never played division one athletics, I can only assume how it would feel to see a likeness of me in a video game. And the answer is more “Totally kick ass” than “Sue those greedy bastards”. Besides, the argument could be made, albeit flimsily, that players already receive compensation… in terms of a zero balance tuition and room and board, but let’s not open up that giant can of worms.

So consider Keller, in all his douchetacular wonderment, entrant #1 for the 2009 Sports Douche of the Year.

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