You all know the type. Not quite good enough to play, but they took some serious benders and hangovers for the team. Usually white, male, well off and tethered to a dream of being an athlete. If they cannot be one, at least they can buy access to one—players call them jock sniffers.
Nevin Shapiro the Miami booster now confessing to hundreds of NCAA violations, represents the archetype. Through eight years of handouts and gifts from cash to hookers to parties to abortions, he basked in the reflected glory University of Miami football players. At 5’6” he could never be a star, just rich. But he needed to feel the rush of associating with the players and pretend to be one of them. They called him “Lil’ Luke after Big Luke Campbell who helped bring down Miami in the eighties.
He sniffed around practices like a bloodhound. Invited players to parties and strip clubs and made his mansions a hangout for players. He obsessively muscled into pictures & finagled a sideline pass where he strutted to prove to himself that he mattered to the team’s success.
The key to understanding jock sniffers—they need the players more than the players need them. Having money or status or success is not enough for them. They need association with the players to bolster their self-worth and plaster over the edifice of their ego by collecting and hanging with the dogs.
A jock sniffer walks over and gives the guys “daps.” He’ll call the players by their nicknames and use their slang. Maybe he’ll drop down and have a push up competition on the side during practice. He’ll pretend to be part of the team, and because of his wealth, the team accommodates the illusion.
He’ll drop player’s names in conversations with his friends and dribble out tidbits of insider information like gold nuggets to raise his status and inflate his own self-esteem. His lifestyle boasted his access and status.
Jock sniffers like Shapiro and his ilk Shapiro and his ilk insinuate themselves into player’s lives. This makes them so dangerous to programs and players. The sniffers need the pheromones of the players to excite them and boost their own fractured selfhood. They will do anything to buy and keep that access. If the team starts to lose, they’ll even chip in to help recruit with money and gifts.
If the players need a place to hang out, he’ll provide a place. If they need a ride, he’ll provide a ride. If they need a contact, a woman, a little money, he just might provide it. He’ll show up where the players are and shower gifts to buttress his stature as a pseudo player. The school might designate him a “mentor” to some players to give him an “official” role. A jock sniffer uses these gifts like honey to attract players ito his orbit. He imagines the players are actually like his “family” as Shapiro put it. These jock sniffers surround every program and are violations waiting to happen corrupting themselves and the players. Their existence requires serious compliance work, something lacking at Miami and Ohio State.
The Miami mess illustrates the jock sniffer problem in its extreme form where it has lasted for years and involves literally millions of dollars, but it grows everywhere guys need to bolster their egos with the illusion of being part of the team. The players aren’t fools. More than a few of them will not turn down the offerings and will even brag about it. Then their friends will want to get in on the action.
The players know what they are getting. Most of them have had posses and followers psychically living off their status and accomplishments for years. They see right through the guys who need to use them to buff an ego.
The players play along, but feel an abiding contempt for these seemingly powerful but needy guys who try to collect them. The players know themselves, and they know the hard work and effort accomplishment takes. They don’t need the boosters. The jock sniffers aren’t phonies, just needy deluded guys who could not make it on their own.
From his cell Shapiro is pulling down the Miami program out of anger. He cannot believe his “family” guys whom he courted and showered with gifts have abandoned him. Shapiro is deluded because he considered the players his friends when they were exploiting him just as he exploited them for his own psychological neediness. Most of them are too embarrassed or fearful to use their own names as the story comes out.
The players call these guys jock sniffers for a reason. The jock sniffers need the fake intimacy and insider status they try to buy. They shore up their identity by proximity—by breathing the same air as the team. But the reality is, they just sniff the dirty jock straps.