Viral Video: John Oliver's March Madness

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John Oliver’s masterful, 360-degree, in-your-face jam of the NCAA and their money-making machine, March Madness, is an absolute must-watch. It’s a cross between a deeply ethical Harpers magazine exposé and an episode of Family Guy.

Beginning with a checklist of major advertisers branding every moment of a basketball game, from the plays-of-the-game to the cutting down of the championship nets (a commercial for Werner, a ladder company), Oliver then dips into a satirical comparison to the perennially twee filmmaker Wes Anderson, before swiveling his righteous rocket launcher toward the unctuous NCAA president Mark Emmert. (When Emmert was the University of Washington prez, I once videotaped him for an interview; his answers were classics of the patronizing, phone-it-in school of soundbites.)

Emmert’s favorite rebuttal to the idea that college athletes should be compensated for the NCAA’s exploitive practices is to state – with theatrical condescension –  “athletes are not employees, they are students.” This tees up Oliver’s next barrage, an examination of how athletes are not only enslaved to the sweat-shop routine of meetings and practices (cue a helpful clip from the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman), but also how their actual education is a smokescreen of phony academics. Their only textbook seems to be the 400-plus page manual explaining what they cannot do as so-called “student athletes.”

It’s not like these universities are hurting for cash. Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari recently signed a $52 million extension on his contract. Alabama’s football coach Nick Saban is paid $7 million a year. And the skipper of the Clemson Tigers’ football team, with the ass clown name of Dabo Swinney, is guaranteed more than $3 million a year for the next eight years, during which time 98 percent of his players will never make it to the NFL. Yet Swinney claims his amateurs don’t deserve compensation because they are already awash in “entitlements” (a word Swinney probably picked up from watching Sean Hannity). It’s worth watching Oliver’s entire segment just to see how he links up Swinney’s name with the phrase “edamame farts.”

But make sure you stick around for the final bit, a fake video game featuring two ex-NCAA players with firsthand experience of how this gargantuan “non-profit” reaps billions of hypocritical dollars from the unpaid labor of their student serfs. The video game is called "March Sadness 2015."


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About the Authors & Contributors

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson is a filmmaker, film critic and indie radio deejay. He enjoys strong coffee, red wine, IPAs and his wife and grown children. He is comfortable with the fact he will never be rich, but grows petulant if he thinks too much about it.