From 64 to 16 to 4 to 1: You can tear up your NCAA brackets right now. We already know who's winning this year.
The top-tier college coaches with their seven-figure salaries. The TV networks with their $700,000 Final Four 30-second spots. The sneaker companies, the five dominant conferences, the Las Vegas sports books, the cocktailing alumni, the cheering sports-bar fans and especially a $6-billion-a-year cash cow known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
So who's been missing from big-time college athletics' golden embrace? Oh, right. Them. The players who shoot, pass, leap, dribble, dunk and score for our repeated amusement, risking career-ending injuries on every play. They still don't receive a nickel in salary for all their talent, dedication and hard work.
Shouldn't the players get something more than scholarships? Don't we have antitrust laws and a minimum wage? Paying them nothing while everyone else rakes it in -- that's the real March Madness here.
But it could finally change.
Labeling top college basketball and football players "unlawful chattel," a new federal lawsuit calls into question the whole idea of amateur athletics at the powerhouse schools.
There is great affection for these traditions and misty recollections of the past. But once the arguments are laid out clearly beside the dollar signs, does anyone still believe the old way can survive?
That's what's called a sucker's bet.
1. Go pro.
3. Take the money under the table.
4. Sue 'em.
5. Work for free.
ASKED AND UNANSWERED: Of the 1,000 pieces of mail that postal carrier Patrick Paskett allegedly tossed into a Massapequa Park Dumpster, how many were actual letters and how many were forgettable junk mail? . . . Will this week's recount be enough to propel challenger Andy Powell past Amityville trustee Nick LaLota? An 82-vote gap isn't that tiny when only 2,210 were cast . . . Are LI bank robbers getting sloppy? Half an hour after Tuesday's TD Bank holdup in Ronkonkoma, alleged perp Daniel Charbonnier was in police handcuffs. When a Chase Bank was hit Thursday in Deer Park, cops grabbed two suspects, Leroy Greene and Leo Johnson, in 25 minutes . . . Is tension brewing between the National Association of Realtors and LIBOR, the group's local affiliate? Didn't the LIers just decide to go it alone on Open House Weekend April 5-6 when the national org bailed? . . . Will SoBi replace DecoBike as Long Beach's bicycle-share vendor? What do you say we send all these companies for a remedial capitalization course? . . . Art quiz: What do you make of the oohs and aahs at the Maastricht European Fine Art Fair over a 26-foot Alexander Calder sculpture called "Janey Waney"? Did the Dutch art crowd realize that the bright-red mobile, list price $20 million, was first commissioned for the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove or that "Janey" was Baby Jane Holzer, wife of mall developer Leonard Holzer and beloved Andy Warhol muse?
THE NEWS IN SONG: I like the way they dribble: Kurtis Blow's old-school "Basketball," tinyurl.com/zeroball
LONG ISLANDERS OF THE WEEK: MASSAPEQUA CHEERLEADERS
They're the unsung athletes of high school, the cheerleaders. Their sport requires just as much athleticism and produces just as many injuries as football or basketball. But college scholarships? Going pro? Many cheerleading squads don't even get a school-bus ride to the game. So three cheers -- make it 33 -- for Coach Lisa Battistoni and her Massapequa High School cheerleaders, taking home their first-ever national championship at the National Cheerleaders Association High School Open (Medium Intermediate Division) in Louisville, Ky., on Feb. 22. And sorry we're getting this news to you a solid month late. Cheerleaders never get the respect they deserve.
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