Player Hating: Saying “Game Over” to College Sports
by Cody Brotter | Boston University
I used to be a sports fan. I wore Knicks jerseys to class and my walls were covered with Yankee Stadium ticket stubs and Michael Jordan “Space Jam” posters. I even quit my tennis team because my coach said she didn’t like the Chicago Bulls. I idolized athletes and the games they were able to play in ways I never could.
Then I turned ten.
Once I was in the double digits, the notion of celebrating hitting or throwing or catching or kicking balls seemed a little…childish. Almost as childish as the suburban parents who would heckle us at t-ball and Little League games.
Now I attend University in “The Hub of the Universe,” or more aptly, the world’s hub of academics and athletics. A place referred to as “The Athens of America” for its 100+ colleges and universities and its supposed emphasis on intellectuality, research, and study. It’s also a place with some of the world’s most beloved sports teams and some of the world’s most infamous sports fans.
The historic and outrageously prevalent rivalry between BU and BC might be better off to concern itself less with hockey scores and team rankings than test scores and college rankings. In fact, maybe that’s where we should derive “school pride.” Maybe that’s the kind of American competition between private institutions that could result in little things like scientific breakthroughs and entrepreneurship.
But why do administrations always encourage the rivalries with a smirk? Why do we give sports scholarships to students with academic transcripts at the level of a Texas governor? Why the disproportionate investments in teams and players and arenas?
A hint: it’s the same reason Wall Street lenders got giddy during the credit boom and the same reason strippers grind the pole. It’s that un-backed green piece of paper that each day becomes more devalued as a currency and more valued as a measure of pride and joy.
The increase in athletic-based admissions theoretically has a gradual positive correlation with victories, notoriety, alumni donations, salaries, and then fancy dorms or Frito dispensers or whatever ends the administrators tell themselves justify the means.
It might practically also have a more immediate negative correlation with GPAs, standards, and virtuous contributions to colleges and cultures.
Maybe I’ve been living too long at the Fenway stop on the T or maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of “The View.” But I am beginning to wonder if these two worlds, unlike that of human beings and fish, should really co-exist peacefully.
But what disturbed me most about Boston college students celebrating the murder of Osama last May was not so much that they were dancing for joy because rich men sent poor kids to shoot a dude in the face. It was the fact that it was no different than the way they celebrated the Bruins victory one month later.
The chants I heard outside were exactly the same: “USA! USA!” The only thing different was the team colors: red, white, and blue in May and yellow in June.
We “root, root, root for the home team”–whether we’re murdering those who love the Sox or those who hate Israel. The middle class serves the establishment and critical thinking is replaced by blind and bloody support. But as a nation of college kids #LOSING the future to our international peers, America’s students and faculty members might want to ask themselves some questions.
Is college team rivalry the most beneficial outlet for our competition? Are chants from the bleachers the most moral outlet for my anger? Are the “least of these” aided if we keep running bases? Should ice-skating with pucks be part of a club on the side or the measure of a school’s success? Is a Great Depression 2.0 in a world full of honor killings and genocides and constant warfare the best time to play games? Are there more responsible places to spend and make our cash? Are there more helpful ways to use our physical strength and our outstanding athletic talents? Who should we use our energy to root for? Who should we use our vigor to fight for? To what “teams” should our allegiances really be tied?
It’s a question of what we emphasize, celebrate, and reward in our world-class educational institutions. It’s a question of priorities. It’s a question of growing up.Cody is a NGJ Voices Contributor, a Huffington Post writer, and the Telly Award-winning Executive Producer of buTV10's "Welcome Back, Brotter. Management: firstname.lastname@example.org. @TweetCody