Saturday, August 29, 2015

Developing "Dogs and Turds"

The University of Maryland's football season opens next week.  There's all kind of reasons to be uncomfortable with the opener. 

First, Division I football subdivision players are exploited for the financial benefit of coaches, administrators, and businesses built of the sport.  The sport itself, as currently constituted, depends on this exploitation.

Second, the sport is incredibly violent and puts exploited amateur athletes at risk of severe, debilitating long-term injuries.

Third, games between FBS and FCS teams shouldn't happen.  FCS student athletes are sacrificed for operating funds for their school's athletic department.  The discrepancy in the size and speed between the teams on the field means that every big hit -- particularly on special teams -- has spectators holding their breath to see how badly a kid is hurt.

On the flip side, I was a poor kid that moved out of poverty by virtue of a college education.  I have an almost religious faith in the power of undergraduate education to transform the lives of this country's underclass.  College football makes a college education possible for thousands of young men every year.

The money generated by college football means that we have built structures to affirmatively seek out members of the underclass and offer a path out.  Sure, it would be better if there were scores of people looking for those kids that demonstrated unique talents in science, math, art . . . anything educational.  But that's not happening and that this recruiting and investment, in fact, happens with sport has an impact that can't be ignored.

Maryland's football team provides the illusion -- to me -- that there is a better way.  A stronger focus on earning a degree (and then earning a graduate degree) and excelling in studies under Coach Edsall brings the benefit to the student athletes to the forefront.

So, why am I heartened to see another football coach -- heralded for his commitment to the classroom and the improved academic performance of his student athletes -- in the B1G lose his job?  Because a college education isn't worth it if it is premised on the dehumanization of the student.  Abuse from coaches of unpaid students cannot be tolerated.  The system is, by its nature, abusive and exploitative.  Open physical and verbal abuse from coaches cannot be an acceptable form of interaction between those making a living off the game and those that are doing it to pay for their studies. 

While I am grateful to see Tim Beckman relieved of his authority, it makes little dent in the overall messed up nature of college football. 

Consider the assistant director of player development on the University of Pittsburgh's football team, Tim Salem.  In the Chicago Tribune's July piece on the paper's interviews with University of Illinois current and former players, Timmie allows himself to be quoted as calling those complaining about Coach Beckman as "dogs and turds."  This is both inartful and idiotic, but not as insanely dumb as the lengthier quote attributed to Salem published by the Tribune: 

"Every team in America's got those guys," he said. "Every team can have one kid who's not very good. He's not very tough; he was recruited to play the wrong level of sport."
"He's not very tough."  This underscores the basic, uncomfortable truth about college football -- the exploitation of the system means that a significant portion of those that get compensated (coaches) are idiots that revel in the exploitation.  The system is demeaning because the people within it, those that benefit the most, dehumanize and abuse those supposedly under their care.

Why would the University of Pittsburgh afford someone with this attitude a position through which he would have influence or control over the development of their student-athletes?  Because nothing about a dipshit questioning the fortitude of kids that put their health and welfare on the line for the principal benefit of others seems to be all that out of place in the culture of the sport.

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