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  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by rogermortimer View Post
    While this Penn State scandal is the worst in my lifetime (although some may argue the Dave Bliss incident at Baylor), the worm turned long ago. Division 1 football (in particular) and Division 1 basketball really are not compatible with the mission of most any educational institution. Football really corrupts, even at schools (like Duke) which follow the rules. It costs a fortune, requires the lowering of academic standards not just for a handful of athletes but for tens of them, and disorders the academic priorities of the school. Think Florida State would have a Family Life or Recreation major without football? Likely not.

    Football at a place like Penn State is entertainment for the masses. And it permits alums and followers to relive their youth vicariously - the reason why it attracts so much money. But University of Chicago had it right in the 40's when they gave up big time sports.

    Accordingly, as disturbing as the event at PSU is, I long ago gave up any illusions over NCAA revenue sports. The notion that the programs exist for young people is hogwash (although it comes closer at Duke and other places with high grad rates) and even more absurd is that they exist for the development of young people. They are businesses on campus, and their interests often prevail over virtually anything else.
    As a physical activity, sports serve to connect the ivory towers to the outside world. Especially when they are worthy of spectators. The life of the mind is insular. Ahh, 1905.

  2. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by JasonEvans View Post
    Ken,

    You forgot to mention the scandal at Miami. That one is a real doozy, if it proves to be true.

    You also forgot to mention how traditional rivalries and structures have been torn apart over the past couple months as schools chase the money in this musical chairs game of conference expansion and contraction. I mean, what is the Big East without a few teams from the West Coast... when you say Syracuse, I instantly think - ACC! ... and it should be easy for Texas and TxA&M to forget decades and decades of annual matchups just so A&M can play South Carolina and Vandy instead.

    -Jason "if any of this gets you down, Taylor Branch wrote a nice article recently in The Atlantic that should perk you up right away " Evans
    Honestly Jason, I respect you as a poster, but I have a bit of a problem lumping this in with the other issues discussed. As a child, my parents, due to work (economic influences) were forced to move our family several times. This obviously uprooted and damaged existing relationships, but I'm not going to call them morally bankrupt for doing so. Even without geographical changes, relationships among people change and evolve, come and go. New relationships form. Institutions are like people in that sense. There is no sacrosanct right or moral imperative attached to one particular grouping or another. Schools have a right to look after their own stability and financial health, and doing so in my mind does not come with any ethical culpability. Lumping this in with actual moral failures like failing to educate or discipline players they have a responsibility for, failing to compete according to the rules they have agreed to compete by, or the abomination at PSU, is wrong.

    I can certainly understand it as a reason to be frustrated with sports, but I feel this thread is about more than simple frustration, its about despair and loss of hope, which is sad and I don't think should be diminished with (what I feel are ultimately) more trivial matters.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by dukebluelemur View Post
    ... but I feel this thread is about more than simple frustration, its about despair and loss of hope, which is sad and I don't think should be diminished with (what I feel are ultimately) more trivial matters.
    If goings on in the world of college sports brings "despair and loss of hope" to a bunch of folks then I think there's a signifcant lack of perspective and context happening. Earthquakes, wars, disease epidemics - these things bring dispair and loss of hope. (Folks even find hope in these real tradgedies sometimes.)

    Disappointments, yes. Anger, yes. But let's not forget that college sports, while extremely popular, are not life and death. Scandals, abhorernt crimes, and things that can make you very upset happen all the time thoughout every corner of this country - in all types of ways. They just don't all end up on ESPN.

    Deep breath. Sports are not corrupt - people are. Hate the bad, corrupt people all you want (they deserve it) but don't get it twisted - in the big scheme of things, with all else going on in the world, the bad stuff that happens within the college sports realm is not worth societal dispair and loss of hope. It just aint.

  4. #24
    It's just hard is all. Even though I knew that one day, inevitably, I woudn't see JoePa pacing the sidelines in his "high water" pants. In fact the past few years he has been up in the press box. It's just painful right now. We are all entitled to our feelings. I just hope they don't remove the bronze JoePa staute in front of Beaver Stadium.

  5. #25
    Apologies for the length of the following: I'm more sorting out my own feelings about this topic than providing Kentankerous with any real advice.

    I'm sort of with rogermortimer upthread, and have been progressing down that road for some time. The recent incidents at Penn State have not exactly turned me around. And I get angry at myself at times for all the thousands of hours I've wasted on caring about something as trivial as athletic contests to the exclusion of concerts, plays, reading, cooking, being in nature, and everything else to do out there in the world with our precious little time.

    There was a good Radiolab a few months ago (http://www.radiolab.org/2011/aug/23/) about games and sports and why otherwise mature, intelligent people continue to be attracted to them despite the risk of emotional overattachment to something generally meaningless. Why do we keep letting the outcomes of contests between total strangers affect our moods and life patterns? My god, they're just games! But at the same time, there are alluring factors that keep us coming back. Watch a full baseball game, and you're pretty much guaranteed to see a situation or event you've never seen before. There's the competition, of course, and all it stands in for, taking evolutionary contest and moving it to something not truly life or death. There's the comforting tribalism to be found in fandom as a substitute for community often lacking in the modern world. There are the good examples set by those who set goals and work really hard to attain them.

    But I've been finding the flip side difficult to overlook these days. The fact that to even meaningfully compete in almost any sport, my kids need to start dedicating absurd amounts of time to them at the age of 7. The fact that the football and basketball coaches at large public universities are paid orders of magnitude more than any other public employee in the state. The absurdity of a collegiate athletics governing body trying to pretend that college football and basketball players aren't professionals in all but name - they devote at least half of their waking hours to their sport, in season and not; they're involved in an enterprise that makes many, many millions of dollars annually; they're on television and speaking to the media regularly. The complete regulatory capture of many academic institutions by athletics (and, in the Penn State and Baylor and probably other cases, the terrible human cost that can come with that). The fact that 90% of the name brand American universities are defined in the public by the success or lack thereof of their football and basketball teams, and not at all by academics. The valuation of dozens of professional sports franchises north of half a billion dollars.

    I'm torn because I've loved sports my entire life. They've always been and continue to be a major bonding factor within my family. They're a great ice breaker for conversation with most any male I might meet in the world. But I, like Kentankerous, find myself drifting from them in a more permanent way than my usual hiatus-taking for a few weeks when all "my" teams are simultaneously are a downswing, or when I've invested too much in a Duke basketball team and we lose in the tourney. I find myself more drawn to individual sports nowadays, and eschewing the tribalism and some of the absurdity I see in letting a part of my identity be tied to which teams I follow. But I fear that if I drop out entirely, my sons will miss that bond I share with my own dad, as well as be outcast in social settings for not being sports nuts like every other boy in America.

    I think at the end of it all for me, I sense that sports may have jumped the shark in our culture. Why is it that ours is the only nation in the world where collegiate athletics are given such outsized importance (or any at all, really)? Why is ours the only culture on the planet in which professional athletics dwarfs all other forms of entertainment? Where it's a big deal for the chief executive of the country to even propose addressing the nation when there's a football game going on? Where one could spend their entire life just consuming sports media, without even bothering to watch (much less, you know, actually play) the games underneath it all?

    While the underlying assets of Sport as a general matter remain, the inevitable arms race of professionalism has all but obscured most of that. Winning and making money is more in the forefront than overcoming daily adversity. TV ratings and ad dollars are more important than making the most of your potential and working as a team. Half the channels on my cable system are dedicated to sports now. Professional poker players are making millions of dollars so that we can watch them on television. A long snapper in the NFL makes 10 times the money a teacher does. I find myself falling away from big time sports because I'm recoiling from what it says about our culture generally that they exist in the form in which they exist, I guess.

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal View Post
    I think at the end of it all for me, I sense that sports may have jumped the shark in our culture. Why is it that ours is the only nation in the world where collegiate athletics are given such outsized importance (or any at all, really)? Why is ours the only culture on the planet in which professional athletics dwarfs all other forms of entertainment?
    Have you seen the European soccer leagues?? Have you seen the amount of attention paid to them by fans? I'm just saying - I think viewing the US as the only country guilty of placing too much emphasis on college or professional sports is a bit over the top.
    Sure, we Americans love our sports and pay ridiculous amounts of money in the process. This is in no way unique, however. There's plenty of cultures that overdo it when sports are concerned. (Just ask Andres Escobar).

    I just don't think this is a specifically American phenomenon.
    This, however, is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQsd7y5YbZw

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by DukeWarhead View Post
    Have you seen the European soccer leagues?? Have you seen the amount of attention paid to them by fans? I'm just saying - I think viewing the US as the only country guilty of placing too much emphasis on college or professional sports is a bit over the top.
    Sure, we Americans love our sports and pay ridiculous amounts of money in the process. This is in no way unique, however. There's plenty of cultures that overdo it when sports are concerned. (Just ask Andres Escobar).
    Yeah, I thought of the soccer/futbol counterexample when writing. I just don't think it adds up the way U.S. sports do as a whole. Take the U.K. There's the EPL and its lower divisions, which (no research or numbers to support me, just wild-reared guesstimations) seems to roughly equate with the NFL. And...what else? What's their MLB? Cricket? What's the analogue to the NBA? NHL? College hoops? College basketball? NASCAR's way bigger than F1. We have a professional bowling league, and poker's on television every night in this country.

    Some of it's just the size of the United States, I know. We talk a lot about how India and China dwarf us in population, but we're still in the 5 most populous countries in the world (I think), and still have far and away the most expendable cash. There's sufficient economy of scale to support four major professional sports leagues and countless minor ones, and fund every Olympic sport. But that's not a full explanation for why we have three separate ESPN's, plus the Golf Channel, Fox Sports networks all over the place, a couple soccer channels, the Big Ten Network, the pending Longhorn Network, the Tennis Channel, OLN, Versus, and whatever else. Not to mention at least two or three separate radio stations in every single urban market in the country dedicated to nothing except talking about sports. When the EPL season's over and your team's not in the Champions League, what are you watching, or as importantly, attending, in Liverpool? I don't get the sense, from Brits I know, that there's just a migration to the next sport's season the way we have here. That holds for other Europeans and Latin Americans I know, and fits with my experiences traveling. They know their soccer, yes. They don't generally spend an average of three hours a day all year round watching sports and consuming sports media, though. We have (again, guessing) 60 hours a year of NATIONAL television coverage of Little League baseball! We have high school basketball and football tournaments that get regional and national coverage. We have a top-rated television drama about the importance and centrality of high school football to a town in Texas. Fantasy sports? Invented, perfected, and commoditized in the United States. We have professional hockey teams that draw more people to every home game, and charge 2x per ticket more, than the top teams in Russia, in multiple locations where a frozen pond has never occurred since the last Ice Age. We can't abide having the Olympics shown on tape delay in this country.

    Also, unless I'm mistaken, no other country has any significant collegiate athletics. Our college athletic system, on the other hand, is a multi-billion dollar enterprise for two separate sports. The University of Texas Athletic Department is something like a $150M/year enterprise. Anecdotally and based on my time in other countries, I'd hazard that college hockey and baseball are bigger money games than most of the secondary professional sports in most European countries.

    We're also the most obese country in the world. Which leads me to the general conclusion that we watch too much sports and don't play enough. That's been my personal focus lately. Stop watching and reading about Novak Djokovic, and go hit some tennis balls.

  8. #28
    Join Date
    May 2007
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    Tennessee
    Mal's post #25 really resonates with me ... almost exactly how I feel. Let me add just a couple little things to it.

    First, I don't think there's any method we could all agree upon which would help us figure out whether sports or the fandom for it is so out of proportion in out society that it's not worth it anymore, or whether it's detrimental to society as a whole. For some people, a Kerri Strugg or Doug Flutie moment every few years is enough to justify an immensely greater amount of resources spent on forgotten moments, to look past corruption, cheating, scandal, academic fraud. For others, such moments are wonderful but don't justify the situation on balance. Every fan evaluates this pro/con balance implicitly ... and comes to their own conclusion.

    Second ... I just thought I'd share a tidbit from a bb game tonight. My son's team, undefeated, played an away game. The stands in this school were effectively all on one side; there was no home/away seating. Without doing a play-by-play, suffice it to say that what we witnessed was a younger version combination of the Duke-Maryland "gone in 54 seconds" game with the Duke-UNC Jeff Capel shot to put it into OT. The crowd got ugly and hostile toward the end of the 4th quarter as the lead slipped away from the home team, which eventually lost. Your correspondent here got to experience a level of hospitality not that dissimilar from JJ's folks at VaTech. I'll just leave it at that.

    Folks, this was a middle school game. JV at that! Right now, if you asked me, I'd say yeah, the tail is wagging the dog, and it's hard to believe that on the whole, we have the balance right here. But I surely don't have enough information to make the calculation, and even if I did, as I say, who could agree on a method.

    But I fully understand Mal's points regarding how talking sports is the social currency we exchange with friends, family, and co-workers. It's very hard to not participate in that economy and be integrated into the society. But if everyone around you is acting crazy (not in a good way), I don't see why acting crazy with them benefits oneself or society in any measure.

  9. #29
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    Feb 2007
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    Raleigh, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by ForkFondler View Post
    As a physical activity, sports serve to connect the ivory towers to the outside world. Especially when they are worthy of spectators. The life of the mind is insular. Ahh, 1905.
    1905 wasn't all that great, either.

    The Faustian bargain between academia and the entertainment industry was made a long time ago. We can fine-tune around the edges but it's still a flawed system, one not employed by any other nation.

    Perhaps, for good reason.

    That may sound cynical. But these seem to be cynical times.

  10. #30
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    Dallas

    So why do we watch?

    With all the scandals and scarring that these sports cause or show, why do we still watch? Why do we still participate and teach our children how to take a charge? Ultimately, on a Saturday afternoon after working hard all week, I want to get together with a group of friends and watch a team in play. I know the sports aren't pure, but watching the quick release of a very good three point shooter or the perfect timing of a well placed ally-oop, I'm able to forget about the "TPS reports" due on my boss' desk Monday. Is that selfish of me? I truly wish the important people in life (teachers, fire fighters, police officers, etc.) were paid the millions instead of those that happen to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but that's not how capitalism works. There are only a very small percentage of people capable of doing what the average NBA player can do. Therefore, they get paid well for it. How they proceed to live their lives is up to them.

  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by basket1544 View Post
    There are only a very small percentage of people capable of doing what the average NBA player can do. Therefore, they get paid well for it.
    It's more than just only a very small % of people can do what NBA players do ... it's that WE value it so highly. So that's the crux ... should we reconsider what we value?

    btw, loved the TPS reports reference. Don't forget the cover sheet!

  12. #32
    WHY DO I WATCH???

    Because Saturdays in the Fall in Pennsylvania means Penn State football.

  13. #33
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    Nashville
    Quote Originally Posted by Mal View Post
    Yeah, I thought of the soccer/futbol counterexample when writing. I just don't think it adds up the way U.S. sports do as a whole. Take the U.K. There's the EPL and its lower divisions, which (no research or numbers to support me, just wild-reared guesstimations) seems to roughly equate with the NFL. And...what else? What's their MLB? Cricket? What's the analogue to the NBA? NHL? College hoops? College basketball? NASCAR's way bigger than F1. We have a professional bowling league, and poker's on television every night in this country.
    Rugby is big. Cricket is probably a slightly bigger deal in South-Central Asia than in England, but it's still big there. So are tennis and golf. Also, the lower divisions of soccer in Europe basically take the place of collegiate athletics in England. A League 1 team will pack out their stadiums for soccer matches even though they're in the third division and their best players are always a threat to be signed by bigger clubs (NBA draft comparison). You are right about the US being the only country to attach so much importance to collegiate athletics.

    The college sports that are big are the sports that developed a more refined collegiate structure before there was a professional structure. College football's importance predates professional football's importance. Same with basketball, or at least both grew in popularity, simultaneously. Baseball, on the other hand, has been played professionally in some capacity since the mid 1800's. The Major Leagues were so entrenched by the time college baseball became organized that it had no hope of competing. This never happened in other countries. Professional soccer is almost as old as baseball in the United States. The other sports followed the soccer model rather than developing amateur leagues. In addition, the different university systems in Europe and elsewhere have not lent themselves to big money athletics. I don't think the United States attachment to sports is unique, even if our specific attachment to college sports is, if that makes sense.

  14. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by COYS View Post
    I don't think the United States attachment to sports is unique, even if our specific attachment to college sports is, if that makes sense.
    Makes sense to me. Alot of European cultures have attachment to local/community club sports teams that we don't see here in the US. So while the collegiate aspect is not there, the attention and attachment certainly are. The fact that we in the US have scores of TV channels devoted specifically to sports is not noteworthy. We also have channels deovted specifically to food, travel, home shopping, etc. Excess is kind of what we do, because we can. I for one don't mind.

  15. #35
    It's simply natural to enjoy sports. Whether it dates back to animalistic tendencies to establish an "alpha dog", or to succeed at hunting (I'm sure everyone cheered when a successful hunt brought home dinner instead of letting many go starving), or to succeed at war against rival groups (everyone's happy to be alive). Sports is a test of strength and skill, with the legacy of violence removed. Unless you're playing football, which has plenty of violence to go around, of course.

    But it's foolish to assume organizations with thousands of individuals are going to be pure, unadulterated competitions. Calipari isn't exactly new to coaching, for instance. And scandal is as much a part of the college game as anything. Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant are two of many coaches who are legends of football, but left the game with impure legacies. Rumors of players being paid on John Wooden's UCLA teams have arisen from time to time, but it isn't as if the NCAA was powerful enough then to investigate them or has an interest in destroying his legacy since.

    And if your opinion is that money is corrupting everything, then switch only to non-revenue sports. Because as long as you watch that game on ESPN with everyone else, you are in fact contributing to the revenue, which contributes to the corruption. When you let the cable company raise rates when ESPN goes to them for more cash, you are contributing to the corruption. There are plenty of athletes who are playing "for the right reasons" on the lacrosse teams, running track, or on the swim team, and the only barrier to watching competition is having to follow them in person instead of from your home.

  16. #36
    I think I'm just going to agree to disagree with COYS and Warhead, if that's alright with them. My personal anecdota and time spent visiting (and in one case, living briefly) in European countries don't lead me to the same point on equivalency. Not a major point, in any event: take my general meanderings above and apply to the whole of the industrialized world if you want. I feel we're pretty out of whack on the importance we lend to sports as a general matter. Don't know if it's always been that way, but I suspect it hasn't, at least not to this extent.

    Just food for thought: I checked some attendance numbers, and the total attendance last year at all English FA soccer games (Premier League down through English Conference, whatever that is), five levels of over 100 teams, was somewhere in the 30 million range.

    Minor league baseball alone in the U.S. outdrew that last year. They play more games, yes, but we're talking about approximately the same amount of teams, and not including the majors while including the EPL. In many communities those minor league baseball teams fill a similar role as the lower division soccer teams do in European towns. Major League Baseball's 32 top level teams, on the other hand, this season drew about 75 million to stadiums. They play a lot of games (because people come, they can do so), and obviously there's 5 times the total potential fan base, but it's 1/3 the teams of English soccer. All told, the average American attended more than 2/3 as many professional baseball games last year as the average Brit did professional soccer matches, and if you just look at the top leagues, the average American went to as many MLB games as the average Brit did EPL games. And that's our second most popular sport up against the updisputed king of the hill by a long shot in the UK. I'm not even touching the U.S. league where it costs $20M+ for a 30 second ad on the championship game's telecast. Or its collegiate minor league, where 44 million people went to a game last year.

    Also, for what it's worth: Arena Football, the National Lacrosse League (indoor lax), and the Women's NBA each draw more people per game in attendance than any indoor sports league in the world not based in the U.S. Arena Football (!) has a higher average attendance than both rugby union and rugby league in the UK.

    By the way, excellent point, COYS, on the growth of college football and basketball before there was a viable professional league to compete with them and siphon talent off into a truly professional minor league system. It's weird, and perhaps regrettable, that those sports ended up being sponsored by universities before professional commerce got there to co-opt both.
    Last edited by Mal; 11-15-2011 at 12:51 PM. Reason: Added last note...

  17. #37
    If you extrapolate all the bad deeds of people to larger groups, you might as well give up on the human race.

  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal View Post
    Just food for thought: I checked some attendance numbers, and the total attendance last year at all English FA soccer games (Premier League down through English Conference, whatever that is), five levels of over 100 teams, was somewhere in the 30 million range.

    Minor league baseball alone in the U.S. outdrew that last year. They play more games, yes, but we're talking about approximately the same amount of teams, and not including the majors while including the EPL. In many communities those minor league baseball teams fill a similar role as the lower division soccer teams do in European towns. Major League Baseball's 32 top level teams, on the other hand, this season drew about 75 million to stadiums. They play a lot of games (because people come, they can do so), and obviously there's 5 times the total potential fan base, but it's 1/3 the teams of English soccer. All told, the average American attended more than 2/3 as many professional baseball games last year as the average Brit did professional soccer matches, and if you just look at the top leagues, the average American went to as many MLB games as the average Brit did EPL games. And that's our second most popular sport up against the updisputed king of the hill by a long shot in the UK. I'm not even touching the U.S. league where it costs $20M+ for a 30 second ad on the championship game's telecast. Or its collegiate minor league, where 44 million people went to a game last year.
    I hate to nitpick, but I don't think the number of teams matters as much as the number of games. The MLB and NFL have a similar number of teams, but almost 50 million more people attended major league baseball games, but it doesn't mean baseball is more popular. I'm not sure what the numbers are, but I think ticket price or average attendance comparisons might still support your point though.

  19. #39

    Ken I agree with you, but I will counter with this

    To me for evil to exist, good has to exist. The universe has a strange way of balancing itself out. And in all honesty after reading what you said, I was almost frantically thinking, how do you counter this. Because frankly you are right. What happened at Penn State is gross, tragic, and disgusting. I can easily see how the state of the world can leave anyone jaded. But then I started to think of the things that lift me up when times are really tough and even when I start to question the way things are in sports or life.

    {COMPLETELY OFF TOPIC} And in all honesty I started to turn, and become during the "Fab 5" era, The documentary actually affirmed that. It is perfectly acceptable to dislike, or even hate an opponent, but you have to respect them. While I hate UNC, I respect their history. I hate Tyler H. but I respect his work, and desire. Same goes with Tebow. I just hate the fact that Tebow's personal beliefs take over the story, and not his accomplishments. Because when you get down to it, the guy wins. Personally I think he is a fraud of a QB, but he wins.

    But I will leave you with some of things that make me marvel at the pureness of human spirit and sports itself.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO4tIrjBDkk

  20. #40

    And I messed something up with the links...like I knew I would


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