Wednesday, October 26, 2005

College Sports, A Response

I respond to this post on an excellent new blog. The thrust is that college sports are a circus of cheating that makes the hue and cry about "controversies" within their seasons trivial and meaningless.

I concur, for the most part, particularly in the cheating aspect. I understand the hyperbole for effect, but cheating is basically about money. That means men's football and men's basketball. I am sure that there are failures in ethics in the other sports, but probably not more than the society at large. In the two major moneymakers, the cheating is par for the course, which I agree, does render it a meaningless joke because college sports are marketed as a bunch of "student athletes" competing for the love of the game. The problem is that there once was a time before sports became a big dollar business (decades and decades ago) when that myth was true. And there was no clear demarcation line when that switch happened, so one day everyone woke up and said WTF is this corrupt beast? College football and college baseball are exactly like the minor leagues in baseball and hockey as for how they feed into the pro leagues. [Frankly, football and basketball should have minor leagues for 18 and up players. But that's an argument to be explored more fully for another day.]

However, my colleague goes too far in his sports nihilism. Sports are like religion without the mass killings and wars started in its name. They are a cultural glue and they only matter to the extent that cultural glue matters. Sports guys beat their wives, but so do non sports guys. Sports guys drive drunk, but so do non sports guys. The hostage taking by owners of local communities for sports stadiums is not done by non sports guys, but corporate lobbyists get special treatment at the expense of taxpayers in Congress all the time as well. All of these things are bad, but they are equally bad separate from their connection with sports. One perception is that sports guys get away with that crap more because as athletes they are elevated to special status. Status is everything in America. Those who have it live in a different world.

Anyway, back to the BCS. One thing we love about sports is that, questionable officiating aside, you can get a definitive result. A defintive answer. Sports mirror our quest for answers, our quest for control over our lives. And the one answer you can always have is who won and who lost today. That's why there are 19 levels of tiebreakers in the NFL for the playoffs. The BCS system is hated because it provides zero answers to that fundamental question, who won and who lost today. It's just a composite average of a bunch of opinions. Sports is a bottom line business. Bottom line for dollars, bottom line for who won and who lost. If we have the BCS endless whirlpool of opinion, it will always be unsettled, controversial, we will never "know," and thus we will never have control over our own lives and destinies. College football should become minor league football totally unaffiliated with colleges. But that will never happen because the universities themselves need the selling point of men's football and basketball to generate alumni giving. Universities are a racket, too.

It's all about getting paid. "Pro" sports are just straightforward about that.


Blogger TubaOnFire said...

There is a great book - Beer and Circus, written by a professor at the University of Indiana that discusses how the Universities use sports to hide the fact that they don't give a rat's ass about actually educating undergrads.

9:19 AM  

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