Blame game 

It's all the Rainbow Gathering's fault—even the Griz mess

This morning I slipped on the bath mat and grabbed the shower curtain for support, only to yank it down on top of me and fall backwards onto my shampoo, which exploded.

"Damn you, Rainbow Gathering!" I shouted up into the ventilation fan. It was filled with dead bugs, probably left there by some hippies.

I blame the Rainbow Gathering for everything. Who has been accosting me outside the grocery store for the last month? Refugees from the Rainbow Gathering. Who left a dozen stray dogs in Dillon? According to the Beaverhead County Humane Society, probably the Rainbow Gathering. Who built that paper nest under my porch light? The buzzing, stinging Rainbow Gathering.

Those people are a menace. Between making a mess of Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and playing the ukelele outside Feruqi's, it seems there is no depravity to which they will not stoop. I thought my resentment of the Rainbow Gathering could not get any deeper, but then they turned the NCAA against the Griz.

Last week, that puppet of the hippie-educational complex announced the conclusion of its 18-month investigation into the University of Montana football program. Among other infractions, the NCAA found that boosters had improperly provided players with benefits including bail money and free legal representation.

The Rainbow Gathering is more organized than we thought. Strange as it seems, the same people who asked me for toilet paper at the post office were able to field $3,000 in legal representation for Trumaine Johnson and Gerald Kemp.

It sounds farfetched, but as Sherlock Holmes pointed out, when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. It must have been the Rainbow Gathering who arranged meals, laundry and lawyers for Grizzly football players, because the only other explanation is that the boosters did it themselves. And that makes no sense, because the very purpose of the boosters is to help the Griz.

Only a fool—probably one who lives in a bus with another, nicer bus painted on the side of it—would blame Missoula residents for what happened last week. Where is the motive? Everyone knows that this town loves the Griz. From downtown businesses to window muralists to maybe the county attorney's office, support for UM football is as unanimous as it is well-intended. The good people of Missoula would never do anything to hurt the Griz, with the possible exception of Tasing one or two of them outside a party. But even that falls under the rubric of tough love.

click to enlarge CHAD HARDER
  • Chad Harder

So how to explain last week's disaster? Certainly, some of the blame falls on NCAA regulations themselves. No one wants to go back to the college football of 50 years ago, when boosters across the country routinely provided players with free cars, housing and jobs they didn't have to show up for. Yet a sensible system of rules should distinguish between that kind of obvious corruption and the mere friendliness of people like "Griz Mom," who according to the investigation provided regular home-cooked meals to players for the last decade.

Is that against NCAA regulations? Definitely, and former coach Robin Pflugrad and former UM Athletic Director Jim O'Day should have put a stop to it. Still, there seems to be an intuitive difference between that kind of down-home community support and giving players bail money and legal representation.

A hot meal is one thing, and a free lawyer is another. That's where the story crosses over from normal small-town love of football into something more troubling—something an uncharitable observer might call a permissive culture. And what is the most permissive culture of all? I'll give you a hint: Even if they offered free laundry services, no one would be interested. I'm talking about the Rainbow Gathering.

It must have been those filthy hippies who sabotaged Grizzly football, got our playoff wins vacated and made us vulnerable to UC Davis, probably because of their natural affinity for California. The only other explanation is that the very people who support the Griz most fervently have mired the program in its worst scandal in 40 years. They loved UM football so much that they stopped thinking about what was good for it, costing the program scholarship money, playoff victories and national reputation in their haste to be fans.

That's the bad kind of irony, and I refuse to accept it. Griz fans are not like Lenny from Of Mice and Men, loving their football team so much that they inadvertently break its neck. You know who is like Lenny, though—wandering from town to town, sleeping in fields, angering every community they pass through and constantly talking about a farm that doesn't exist? I don't think I need to say the name, and I don't think you need me to tell you who's responsible for what happened last week. We all know how this town works.

Dan Brooks writes about politics, culture and lying at combatblog.net.

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