Case #4.17: "Hi Mom"

The episode opens with two boys who are about 10 playing basketball at an outdoor court under a streetlight. Cut to an older boy sweating profusely as he sucks on a crack pipe. He's with two other guys. Guy #1 (Jackson) passes the crack pipe, but there's nothing left in it. 

They pool their money to buy more crack. The two friends know Jackson has money because "Coach is always giving him bread." Jackson has $30. He collects $20 from his friend and leaves to make the drug run. Jackson drives erratically.

Over at the basketball court, the two little boys don't seem to hear Jackson's tires squealing on the wet pavement. Both boys stop when they hear a crash and run to see what happened. They find Jackson's car on the sidewalk, smashed into the side of the building. Jackson is unconscious and bloody. One of the little boys recognizes him. 

Two men in suits search Jackson's dorm room. They find the crack pipe and a mostly empty bottle of liquor. The two men start sweeping everything illegal they find into the trash. Theme song.

In the dorm room, Jackson's friends are now wearing suits. One clumsily reads the obituary; he's clearly been done an educational disservice because he can't even pronounce Jackson's birthplace of Huntsville, Alabama. Jackson's second friend gets impatient and grabs the newspaper from him. Jackson's Friend #2 reads that Jackson was the All-American starting point guard for State's Wildcats basketball team. He's survived by his mother, sister, and two brothers. Jackson's Friend #1 starts to cry.

In the athletics building, there's a press conference going on. The school's sports information director Morris introduces the athletics director Wesley Williams, who is played by Kareem Abdul-Jabar. Williams offers his condolences to Jackson's family. Williams has only been athletic director for a month, but nothing on or off the court could've prepared him for this. 

The basketball coach, McKay, describes Jackson as "a model student-athlete." One reporter asks if drugs were involved in his death. The university hasn't received that information from the coroner, but nobody on the team tested positive during the last random drug test. Another reporter heard there were drugs in the athletes' dorm on the night Jackson died.

Coach McKay says the university is doing its own investigation. He understands that Jackson was alone in his room studying before he got into the car accident. The reporter points out that Jackson was driving 70 MPH. Coach McKay is tired of every sports-related problem being blamed on drugs. Nobody on the Wildcats could possibly have a drug problem because of the team's 12-2 record this season and their appearance in last year's Final Four. Coach McKay leaves and Morris ends the press conference.

Morris introduces Williams to a new appointee to the athletics council: Adam Fisher, AKA Cap'n Rufus in a suit and thick glasses. Williams is glad to have new blood on the council because they need it in the wake of Jackson's death.

In the athletes' dorm, Doug dumps a seabag full of crumpled papers and junk food onto his bed. He starts unpacking a suitcase that contains clothes and, inexplicably, a jar of peanut butter. The RA sticks his head in the room and asks if Doug plays football. Doug replies that he's a Greco-Roman wrestler, which is good, because there's no way to pass him off as a basketball player. Hey, It's That Guy: Spencer Garrett who plays the RA was also a Pagan god on Supernatural's Christmas special.

Doug starts eating peanut butter out of the jar with his fingers. Sean the RA asks if they really give scholarships for wrestling. Doug snaps, "They give scholarships to the baton twirlers!" He asks if the school's food is any good. It turns out Sean is not an RA, but rather a tutor for the athletics department. Sean writes down his phone number and tells Doug to call him if he needs anything. Doug sticks the paper to the wall with some of the peanut butter.

Someone knocks on Cap'n Rufus's door. He opens it and is overjoyed to see his son Kip, who has apparently grown out of his Rastafarian phase. Rufus brings Kip's luggage inside. Kip is in the process of transferring from a college in Philadelphia to State. Once his financial aid comes through, he can start classes during winter quarter.

Cap'n Rufus tells Kip he's teaching at State now. "Criminal justice?" asks Kip. Rufus says no, it's African-American history. I guess criminal justice would be way too obvious. Anyway, he's only teaching a few weeks for a case. "Hey, maybe I'll sign up for your class and get an easy A," Kip jokes. Rufus asks how Kip's mother is and Kip replies that she sends her best. "Sends her best? What's the catch?" says Rufus.

Cap'n Rufus fixed up the basement so Kip will have his own separate entrance and kind of a mini-apartment. Kip says he was looking forward to dorm life. Rufus is obviously disappointed. Kip explains that he's moving in with a friend from high school because his friend's roommate dropped out.

Cap'n Rufus tries to change his mind: "Roommates always wanna party. If they get lucky, they'll lock you outta the room. You'll never get a chance to study." Kip promises to study and wants to live on his own for a change. Rufus smiles, "It's okay, whatever you want, son." Clearly, it's not okay.

At basketball practice, Coach McKay advises his team to put Jackson behind them. If they move on and come together as a team, everyone will become a better player and a better human being. He has a new series of plays for their upcoming game against Texas Western. Assistant Coach Calloway breaks the team into squads to practice. He gives a guy named Ray Jackson's old spot.

Up in the stands, Morris and Williams watch the practice. Morris tells Williams that the school got $850,000 for reaching the Final Four and made an additional $2.5 million from tickets and TV revenues. At State, basketball pretty much funds all the other sports. This sounds an awful lot like the college Wildcats in my home state of Kentucky, right down to the blue jerseys.

Football brings in less money than basketball even though there are 95 football players on scholarship. (Probably because the football team sucks like the real life Wildcats). This season, they'll have 10 games on ESPN, 12 on the local station, and a minimum of 3 on NBC. State pays Coach McKay $150,000 a year and he also has his own local TV and radio shows. He drives a car purchased by the alumni booster club, does local commercials, and runs a basketball camp for kids.

Williams is impressed. All that adds up to an additional million dollars a year. He asks about Coach McKay as a person. Morris reports that McKay is the most successful coach in the history of college basketball. (cough)UK(cough). 

In the library, a basketball player named Choo-Choo approaches Tom and asks if he's the new tutor. Tom, who's ostensibly covering for Sean, asks where the guy's books are. The basketball player chuckles and asks for "a few grams." Tom is confused. "I thought you were filling in for Sean," says Choo-Choo. He asks Tom to pass on the message that he's interested in the same deal that Jackson got. Tom asks if Choo-Choo wants to go over his history assignment. Choo-Choo scoffs that he needs his sleep and asks Tom to take his final for him.

That scam would work about as well as the fake ID scene in Summer School. Choo-Choo is black and Johnny Depp is, well, not. Choo-Choo tells Tom to talk to Coach Calloway about it. Later, Tom and Doug leave the library together. Tom announces that he's figured out the case. Doug is disappointed; he wanted to wrestle. "It's the tutors," Tom says, "Choo-Choo Lavelle wants 2 grams of coke and somebody to take a test for him," Tom goes on. Doug says: "Well, you better study. We don't want him to fail." He adds that Sean told him to call if he needs "quote-unquote anything." Tom advises Doug to try to buy drugs from Sean.

Doug is bothered by the fact that everyone is so open about the drugs and the cheating. This was filmed in 1990 and it's even worse now, even with all the NCAA regulations. Tom wants to solve the case so he can go home.  

In Doug's dorm room, Sean finds a slice of pizza draped over a small dumbbell. He remarks that he likes what Doug's done with the place. Doug asks him for the same deal Jackson got. "You wanna fix Greco-Roman wrestling, huh?" asks Sean. Doug is confused. Sean offers to call Vegas for odds.

Doug suggests that he could help with the basketball team next time. "I don't know you. And who says there's gonna be a next time?" asks Sean. Doug tells Sean that his old college expelled him for dealing drugs, so he has a lot of money. He points out that there's not much of a future in Greco-Roman wrestling. Sean asks if Doug can get $10,000; Doug says yes. "Then maybe we can talk," says Sean. 

Cap'n Rufus tells Doug about a phone call from the DA. Jump Street will be investigating the drugs and point-shaving at the same time; one thing may be leading to the other. Jackson's tox report showed that there was cocaine in his system. Doug hasn't asked Sean if he's dealing drugs because he was so shocked by the game fixing. Rufus asks Doug to look further into it.

In Cap'n Rufus's campus office, he asks Kip what he wants to be. Kip doesn't know for sure; he's a freshman. However, he's considering pre-law. Someone knocks on the door. Coach McKay comes in and asks Kip to step outside. Coach is worried about Choo-Choo, who is running the risk of being ineligible to play in the next game. He asks Rufus to give Choo-Choo "every consideration" regarding his grade.

Coach McKay wants his players to graduate with a good education, but the time the players have to invest in basketball cuts into their study hours. Fuller promises to do what he can. Coach McKay thanks him.

Choo-Choo shoots baskets by himself in the gym. Suddenly, the lights go out. Coach McKay comes in, giving a tour to a high school prospect, Ricky. He reels off the highlights of the Wildcats basketball program. He asks Ricky to picture himself playing in the championship game. When Coach snaps his fingers, the scoreboard lights up with 30 seconds on the clock and the Wildcats losing by 1. A prerecorded commentary plays with Ricky's name inserted. Of course, Ricky scores the winning basket. Nice little parlor trick.

Outside, Coach McKay introduces Ricky and his parents to Barrington, the president of the Wildcat booster club. Barrington offers the family a ride back to their hotel in his limo. 

In the locker room, Coach Calloway hands out cups for the mandatory drug test. Choo-Choo hands his specimen jar to someone else. Calloway tells Choo-Choo that Coach McKay wants to see him. Coach McKay tells Choo-Choo that they're depending on him to pass his classes now that he's taken over Jackson's position. "I got a guy. I'm gonna take the final tomorrow," Choo-Choo assures him. Coach McKay gives Choo-Choo $100 in an envelope. 

Choo-Choo tells an unnamed teammate that he's thinking about going along with the point-shaving because his mom lost her job. He asks his teammate to keep the score down. He also informs Unnamed Teammate that Unnamed Teammate won't be playing next year because Coach has recruited Ricky to take his place. Unnamed Teammate agrees to be part of the plan.

Choo-Choo meets Doug and Sean in the darkened gym. He agrees to shave points, but he doesn't want cocaine in exchange. Instead, he wants $2,500 because "around here, everybody's making money off basketball except me."

Doug and Tom have a discussion as they walk around campus. The school makes millions off of basketball and nobody really watches to make sure the athletes live up to the student part of student-athlete. Tom asks, "So what are you saying, that you think these guys shouldn't have to go to class?" "They don't anyway," Doug points out. He thinks State should admit the players strictly as athletes and pay them instead of being hypocritical by calling them students. Tom asks how many college players go on to the NBA and what happens to the rest of them.

At the athletic council meeting, an announcement is made that Ricky signed a letter of intent to go to State. A student member of the council asks what Ricky's SAT score was. It was 550. "Math or verbal?" the student asks. It's 550 combined. I don't know exactly how the SAT is scored, but, yikes, that doesn't sound good. Ricky's GPA is 3.0. "Guess his teachers really dig basketball," says the student member.

After the meeting, a professor, Dr. Sullivan, talks about how Choo-Choo is in Cap'n Rufus's History 110 class. "That's the rumor, I've never seen him in class," Rufus replies. Dr. Sullivan knows Choo-Choo didn't show up for the final. Choo-Choo needs at least a 2.0 to be eligible for basketball season; he already has a B and 2 C's. Dr. Sullivan asks Cap'n Rufus to consider giving him a makeup test.

"You want me to test him again for a test he never took in the first place over material he's probably never even looked at?" asks Rufus. Basically, yeah. Dr. Sullivan suggests an oral exam. Rufus chuckles, shakes his head, and walks away.

Later at Cap'n Rufus's house, Kip is worried because his financial aid didn't come through. He shows his dad the letter explaining why. "They say I make too much money. They must be outta their minds," Rufus rants, "The state is saying I'm not poor enough to send my son to a state university. I'm a public servant. I'm poor by definition. Too bad you're not a 6'10" black man who refuses to go to class."
"I'm black," Kip points out. Rufus tells Kip not to worry; they'll find a way to pay for school.

At the campus dining hall, Doug piles up his plate and is pleased with the food quality. "Yeah, some lovely noodles in a white cream sauce," Tom says sarcastically. Sean joins them at their table. Doug lies that he has the money to pay for the bet thanks to the death of a rich relative. State is favored by 14 points and they'll collect if they win by 10. Tom asks if the bookie will be suspicious of a college kid betting $10,000 against their own school. The bookie, Fat Al, will lay bets in various cities so people won't suspect the game is fixed.

Doug asks what will happen if State wins by more than 14 points. "Then we're in major freakin' trouble," Sean replies simply. Tom is nervous about getting caught. Doug wants to go with Sean when he places the bet.

In Cap'n Rufus's campus office, he hands Choo-Choo his grade slip. Choo-Choo is not happy: "You're jeopardizing my career, my livelihood." Everyone has been saying he's a first-round NBA draft pick since freshman year of high school. Rufus asks if he saw what the slip says. "Yeah, it says you hate basketball players," says Choo-Choo.

Cap'n Rufus asks Choo-Choo to read the grade slip aloud. Choo-Choo stares blankly at the paper. Fuller tells him that he passed, then asks, "You can't read, can you?" Choo-Choo looks guilty. Fuller asks the basketball player if he remembers the last time he opened a book. Choo-Choo thinks it was 9th grade; star athletes don't need to study.

At the Chapel, Doug tells Cap'n Rufus that he and Tom placed their bet. Rufus says it doesn't matter because he's shutting the investigation down. He flunked Choo-Choo, meaning he won't be eligible for the game. Rufus is upset that State admitted someone who is illiterate just because they're good at basketball. He doesn't want to keep Choo-Choo from trying out for the NBA because the kid isn't qualified to do anything else. Doug thinks this qualifies as obstruction of justice. And he's right.

The next day, Coach McKay approaches Cap'n Rufus. Rufus refuses to change the grade. Dr. Sullivan just showed Choo-Choo's card to the coach; Choo-Choo got a C. He asks if Fuller is coming to the game that night. Without waiting for an answer, Coach McKay says, "See you there."

That night, we see the crowds filing into the basketball arena and vaguely hear the cheerleaders shouting their cheers. Sean gives the two little boys from the episode's beginning free tickets. They happily run inside. Sean has tickets for Doug and Tom too.

Cap'n Rufus goes to Williams' office and tells him that Dr. Sullivan changed Choo-Choo's grade without permission. It's 20 minutes 'til game time and he wants Choo-Choo pulled out. Williams will let him play, even though Williams knows about the point shaving. He wants to trust Choo-Choo to do the right thing.

The basketball game is in full swing. Tom, Doug, Sean, the two kids, Williams, and Fuller are all in the stands. Texas Western is winning with 20 seconds left in the game. Coach McKay calls a timeout and benches Choo-Choo. The students still chant his name in support.

After the game, Choo-Choo is sitting in the locker room when he's summoned for another meeting with Coach McKay. Coach isn't alone in his office; Tom and Doug are there too. They flash their badges. Somehow, they make it out of the office in time to arrest Sean outside the arena. Sean isn't worried because his daddy is a lawyer.

Williams fires Coach McKay for violating various clauses of his contraction and NCAA regulations. "I don't like what I've seen and it doesn't have to be this way," Williams says calmly. Coach McKay spits, "Tell it to the alumni!"

Next, Williams talks to Choo-Choo. His days as a Wildcat are over too. Choo-Choo asks for another chance. Williams promises that Choo-Choo can remain a student as long as he doesn't end up in jail over the point shaving. He also tells Choo-Choo to learn to read. I think it's too late for that.

At another press conference, Williams announces Coach McKay's and Assistant Coach Calloway's resignation have both resigned. Choo-Choo is suspended. Williams also will be making a big change to State's athletic program; future freshmen will need a minimum of 750 on the SAT and a C average in high school: "All student-athletes must realize that they are students first. That attitude must start at the junior high and high school levels. Not everyone can make the pros."
Reporters shout questions like how Choo-Choo got through 2 1/2 years of college without anyone knowing he couldn't read.

Kip goes to visit his dad. It must be late because Cap'n Rufus answers the door in his bathrobe. Dorm life isn't what it's cracked up to be as far as Kip is concerned; he's been locked out of his room 3 times this week. Kip asks if he can still live in the basement; it would save money on dorm fees. Rufus asks if Kip is just saying this because of the money. Kip says no, he really does want to live with his dad. Rufus gives Kip the key to the basement entrance.

On the basketball court from the opening scene, one of the boys shouts that Choo-Choo dropped out of State to go to the NBA draft. He's getting $1 million guaranteed if he gets drafted. "All right!" the boys shout and high-five each other. End of episode.

No comments:

Post a Comment