"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Football's whole culture makes it regressive

The book "Missoula" by Jon Krakauer touches on the disturbing aspects of college football culture in a big college football town.
Mike Barnicle is concerned that our "addiction to pro football" cannot be overcome. The discussion that morning was about the consequences of playing football. Mike sits on the "Morning Joe" panel on MSNBC.
Football isn't just a test of physical competition. It's a culture. The young men grow to feel entitled. Their traits of being big, fast and strong win them considerable adulation.
Let's look at ourselves at ask why. We see these teams as extensions of our communities. The NFL teams represent states as well as cities. Certainly the college teams represent these institutions in a most direct way. I have read that if football were to disappear, one of the many positive results would be to render Saturday a more passive, productive and safe day in college towns. Look what happened here in Morris on the day of the goalpost incident. It's an extreme example, not the norm, but it's relevant. No football, no goalpost incident.
Some college towns are taken over by football mania on weekends. Why do we get so absorbed in this? What does it prove? I'm sure there are college faculty from abroad who never learned this interest, who are mystified. Indeed, "stranger in a strange land."
The NFL puts on exhibitions in Europe that are mere novelties. People elsewhere in the world are not captivated like we are. What's the need to put on all this protective gear, some of which doesn't seem to protect very well, in order to engage in faux "combat" against opponents who merely represent a different town or college?
Some college towns become mesmerized during autumn for football. And, what exactly is proven when one team defeats another? It only shows that the winning team had more resources or commitment, marginally able to persuade a greater number of faster and stronger young men to come to their school. It does nothing for their education. Certain ideals like "teamwork," often used to justify the sport, can be developed in many other activities.
Football players in college football hotbeds can become dangerous. They can develop misogynistic attitudes. They feel they can get away with things.
I don't think there is a problem at the University of Minnesota-Morris. I think the players here fit into the normal, reasonable fabric of college life better than in most places. I think this enlightened approach has been cultivated over the past couple of decades. I think prior to that, UMM had many of the Neanderthal traits associated with college football. There was an annual event called "Cougar follies" that reflected that - not promoted to the public. I remember Jack Imholte saying "the less people know about that the better." Today with the Internet, it's hard to keep anything a secret.
I doubt any such event exists today, or if it does, it has been cleaned up. Yes, UMM seems far more civilized and realistic with its football program, than many of our brethren. And, what is our record? Maybe the regressive stuff just can't be divorced from football?
So, maybe my remedy has been the right one all along: just eliminate the sport, and as it fades at the college level, it will have to start fading all around. That addiction or allure of the NFL won't be so strong. Our intoxication can be overcome.
Tom Brady's arrogance is a reflection of the negative traits. It's a reflection of the in-your-face comportment that winning players develop. They learn that "winning" is their ticket. It's not a game, it's a test of Darwinian theory. The best players - players who contribute to winning - get the greatest rewards. If you lose, you can just mosey on down the road.
Just as major league athletes will lie about PEDs, showing no conflictedness whatsoever, so will Tom Brady say whatever it takes not to be blamed for any cheating as in "deflategate." It's like Rafael Palmeiro all over again: Brady and his partners making up that story with the "Deflator" nickname. It was about losing weight, get it? "Deflator." Well, if no one can conclusively prove otherwise, the New England Patriots will have succeeded clouding the issue, just like any good defense attorney would encourage them to.
Except, why not just be honest and contrite as a matter of principle? Why not? Because there's so much (expletive) money involved, that's why. Brady isn't playing football for his health. Pro players know all too well they're sacrificing their bodies. They know the backstory of the health consequences, so they're just trying to rake in all the money they can. Success is defined by winning.
So, Brady and his partners will say whatever it takes, just like Palmeiro from baseball. There are no apologies. Lance Armstrong didn't act like he was compromised at all. People at that elite level have their "eyes on the prize." Big-time college football isn't much different, except the players aren't rewarded as well - the institutions are.
I will continue watching as the bad aspects of football get slowly and steadily revealed, including the pattern of alleged "acquaintance rape" that big shot football players in major college towns seem to get caught up in. Will the worm turn? Will we wise up? Can we somehow tamp down our enthusiasm about this empty pastime? Stay tuned.
I recommend you read the current non-fiction book "Missoula" by Jon Krakauer. Reading it, I see much that I remember about UMM football in the 1970s and early '80s - the cocksure feeling of arrogance and entitlement. I'm a big fan of Krakauer's writing, e.g. "Into Thin Air." Re. alleged acquaintance rape among college students, I'm not quite as inclined to demonize the men as he is, as I feel there's often a gray area that should preclude judgment. But what he reports and suggests about big-time football is spot-on.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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