Diogenes walked into my office. A tall young man carried Diogenes' lantern. "Here," Diogenes said, nodding toward his companion, "is the last honest college basketball player in America. The trouble I had finding him, you wouldn't believe."
I was thrilled by my friend's discovery. The old Greek philosopher had batted around arenas for 30 years. I saw him in press boxes, locker rooms and athletic dorms. He carried a lantern "because (to quote him) it gets dark early in the honesty business."
"Introduce me to the young man," I said eagerly.
"This is Harvey Glinchmeyer, a junior at Tiny Backwater College," Diogenes said. "Harvey is majoring in cartooning, and Tank McNamara is his idol."
"Why did it take so long to find him?" I asked.
"Holy Socrates, such a question," Diogenes cried out. "It would be easier to find Amelia Earhart's airplane than to find a college basketball player who can stand up to the glare of my lantern. Don't you read the papers? Politicians blink at my light. Even the Democrats had tape recorders! Presidents deceive, so why not coaches and 7-foot centers and power forwards?"
"Well, then," I said, chastened, "tell me how you found Harvey."
"By the process of elimination," Diogenes said. "My first 25 years, I carried my lantern from town to town. I sat at courtside for basketball games from Walla Walla to Tallahassee. I found no one you could send to McDonald's and trust to bring the right change back."
Harvey held on his lap a couple of weeks' worth of newspapers. Looking for the comics, he skipped over the sports pages full of the day's typical news about college basketball. He didn't read about a booster who helped UCLA players in ways maybe violating a lot of rules. A Florida State player said he'd been given drugs and money. In South Carolina, a coach resigned amid accusations she broke rules by giving money to players and writing their term papers. Words such as abortion, lesbianism and I'll-dump-you-in-the-Pacific were prominent in the papers.
While Harvey read a Tank McNamara strip, the wire machine in my office clattered out more college basketball news. A Boston College player was sentenced to 10 years in prison for agreeing to fix games for gamblers. Harvey chuckled at the day's cartoon. "That Tank, him funny," Harvey said.
"So about 1975," Diogenes said, resuming his explanation, "I became systematic about my search. I eliminated certain schools. I looked up all the old AP ratings, and I read all the national magazine stories. Any school mentioned in either the ratings or the magazines, I crossed them off as unlikely to welcome the light of my lantern. Right away, I eliminated about 200 schools in 15 or 20 conferences."
"That still leaves hundreds and hundreds of colleges that play basketball," I said.
"I cut out the schools that provide publicity to papers with gambling advertisements," Diogenes said. "And I went to pro scouts and got a list of every player who might be drafted, and I eliminated their schools. I ignored any university ever in the NCAA tournament. And any school that paid its football coach $267,000 a year, such as Texas A&M pays Jackie Sherrill, I crossed them off."
"The trickle-down theory," the old geezer said. "If there's that much money for a football coach, there must be enough loose change on the ground to make a basketball player bend over and pick it up. Soon enough, my map of America had only one school that I hadn't blotted out with a dollar sign. So I flew to New Mexico and caught the first stagecoach out to Tiny Backwater College."
Harvey's head snapped up and he began singing the TBC fight song. He held his hand over his heart.
"I tested the Tiny Backwater players for honesty," Diogenes said, "with the three simple questions I'd been asking college basketball players for nearly 30 years."
"Harvey, let's run through the test for the man here," Diogenes said.
"Tank, him funny," Harvey said.
"The first question," Diogenes said, "is this: did you choose your school because it has a beautiful campus, a strong academic reputation and a basketball heritage you want to be part of?"
"No, sir," Harvey said. "TBC coach, he say I get summer job, $5,000 an hour at the stagecoach depot. He say I go to NBA after one year. He say cheerleaders nice here."
"My second question," Diogenes said, "always is: did the coach keep his recruiting promises to you?"
"No, sir," Harvey said. "Coach, he funny. He say $5,000 an hour, but only pay me $5 a day. Hah-hah on me."
"The last question," Diogenes said, "is: as a student, are you learning anything at your school?"
"Oh, yes sir," Harvey said. "I learn which page in paper has Tank McNamara on it."
Diogenes then said he had to leave my office. He was taking Harvey over to the Smithsonian, where historians would take plaster casts of his footprints and make tape recordings of the only honest answers ever given to Diogenes' three definitive questions.