"Well, it's about time," I shouted, waving the Sports section exultantly.
"What happened?" the cabbie wanted to know. "The Bullets sign George Gervin?"
"Better than that," I said. "The NCAA has passed some new rules requiring that student- athletes actually be students."
"Maybe that's how you read it," the cabbie said. "The way I read it is that some of these big-time white college coaches think too many outstanding black athletes are getting too much ink, and maybe getting too much money from the pros."
"Good heavens, man," I said. "Must you see everything in racial terms? They aren't talking about black and white; they are talking about athletes. They want all NCAA athletes to be at least academically average at their high schools and to score at least a combined 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test when they apply for college."
The cabbie said I was naive. Didn't I know, he asked, that the majority of whites who take the SAT score above 700? Didn't I know that the majority of blacks who take it score less than 700? Couldn't I figure out that the whole point of the rule was to reduce the number of black athletic stars and give the white kids a better shot?
"Don't be silly," I said. "If they wanted to use more white players, there's nothing to keep them from doing it under the present rules."
"And don't you be stupid," the cabbie said. "If they didn't use the outstanding black players now, some other college would use them to win all the national championships. They want to poison the water: create a situation where they don't have to use them and nobody else can use them. It's a damn racist shame, is what it is."
"Surely you aren't saying that you'd be happy to see a lot of dumb black guys going to college just so the schools can exploit them," I said.
"Look, buddy," the cabbie said. "How many dumb black athletes have you seen recently? You can't be dumb and play big-time football and basketball. You think John Thompson can have a bunch of dummies changing defenses everytime Georgetown comes down the floor? You think these football players you see interviewed on TV are dumb? We're not talking about dumb. We're talking about scores on some white-oriented test. It's one thing to say that an athlete has to keep his grades up to maintain his athletic eligibility; it's something else to say he has to make 700 on the SAT just to get into college."
"So I guess you'd be happy to see black kids exploited. Let them slide through school just because they are athletically gifted," I said.
"Hey, man," the cabbie said. "I'm all for making the kids hit the books. All I'm saying is that a kid who goes to a rotten high school shouldn't be barred from college sports just because his parents don't have the dough to help him get his SATs together.
"The big white colleges don't care about these kids unless they can play ball. That's why so many of them go to black colleges. But they also don't want these black colleges winning all the national championships, so they passed a rule that says I don't want 'em and you can't have 'em."
"But don't you agree that colleges, which are, after all, academic institutions, should maintain academic standards?"
"Okay," the cabbie said. "Let's talk academic standards. Let's set tough academic standards for the kid who is a gifted musician or actor, or the son of a trustee, or the kid whose old man gave them a million dollars for the new science building. And while we're at it, let's set tough academic standards for the athletic faculty. When they start requiring that the football coach have a PhD from a fine university, and publish and do research just like the psychology professor, then we can talk about tough academic standards for the players."