They had to know this was coming, even with the blinders in place and the shades of denial so firmly drawn. Really, gentlemen. No light gets through at all, even now? No sound?
This was the sun in supernova, the train chasing Wil Wheaton and Jerry O'Connell across the bridge in "Stand By Me," this court ruling that came barreling off-tackle and planted its facemask in the NCAA's chest. College football players as employees? With employee rights and everything, like the right to form their own union?
Say nothin'. The straight skinny is that this had been coming for a long time from a long mile off -- and it was the NCAA and the universities themselves that put in motion.
Kain Colter and the Northwestern players who formed the College Athletes Players Association didn't do it in a vacuum, after all, or as the product of some temper tantrum by entitled prima donnas. They did it because the pashas running high-end college football have made it abundantly obvious that it is, in fact, a purely business enterprise, papered over with a fig leaf of amateurism that long ago became so translucent as to be non-existent.
And so this day didn't begin with the athletes, but with the people who decided the athletes existed solely to feed that business enterprise.
It began the day the major football conferences created the BCS in order to keep the lion's share of the lucrative college football pie all to themselves. It began the day they put their athletes' images in NCAA licensed video games and denied those athletes a cut.
It began, really, the day they told football players at Ohio State they couldn't sell their own property ... and the day they investigated Johnny Manziel for selling his own autograph ... and the day they decided that a degree in some made-up course of study covered the so-called academic side of their giant con, even though that degree was just another name for "keeping you eligible until you can no longer feed the machine, in which case, good luck getting a real job with it."
Listen. You can't offer full rides that sometimes aren't even full rides, in degrees that are essentially worthless, and still maintain the fiction that your "student-athletes" are really students first. Fact is, too many aren't even students last.
They're what the court said they were: Employees generating billions in revenue for their universities, and subject to the same rights as any employees. It was only the universities themselves who couldn't hear the "Well, duh" in that.
Perhaps that onrushing train drowned it out.