During my eleven years at the University of Georgia, I became a Dawgs football fan. So, naturally, I tuned into the Belk Bowl between UGA and the University of Louisville. I can't get one feature out of my head. The announcers cut to a Belk's department store and showed the players shopping. Turns out that Belk could legally give them a gift certificate and the kids--yes, kids--were thrilled. One unnamed player, it was said, broke down in tears because he could finally give his Mom a Christmas present--a coffee maker. The ESPN announcers were thrilled with his generosity. The school athletic departments received millions, I'm guessing. The kid got a coffee maker.
This was on top of a pretty bad year for college men's football and basketball, the corporate sports. The University of North Carolina, it was revealed, has engaged in a massive academic fraud for the past two decades to keep its players eligible. Florida State has resolutely ignored crimes committed by its athletes, with the full cooperation of the Tallahassee police department. The list could likely go on.
But what's increasingly starting to bother me is the day to day stuff. Millions for coaches, barely a dime for players. Games virtually every day of the week, which makes claims that the athletic departments care about the health of these students a joke, particularly in football. A kind of athletic industrial complex that makes a huge amount of money for a few at enormous cost to the many--to schools that cheat, to student athletes who suffer serious physical damage, to people all across the university who compromise their integrity--heck, to the good sense of anyone who has to pretend that the NCAA actually polices anything with any sense of justice. It is a bad, bad system.
I'm hugely torn here--my brain says what the hell and my heart yells, "Woof, woof, woof." What do I do? I'm starting to wean myself. I know I can't quit cold turkey. But I'm going to work on paying less attention to the corporate sports, the big two. I've consciously worked on learning about the UI women's basketball team, gone to my first women's volleyball and basketball games this year, and I'm going to spend more time with softball and baseball. If they'd ever actually host an outdoor track meet here, I'd go to that.
I truly enjoy watching sports and I know I'll still talk about the big 2 and watch some. But I'm taking my attention and my dollars elsewhere more often. Because this system is rotten for many. And I'm voting with my feet.