Sunday Morning Open Thread


I'm not one to get on people for being impure in their failure to boycott all the evil institutions in the world, if for no other reason than it's pretty much impossible. But I admit I'm a bit puzzled about the number of self-admitted really hardcore college sports fans who admit the entire enterprise is completely abusive and corrupt.

Regular readers know that I am a hardcore fan of college athletics, particularly college football. I do believe it is "corrupt" (in the sense that the major players in the sport regularly violate the rules and the BCS is a slush fund for a privileged few that deprives the "less well off" in the system of needed funds - see Junker, John) and I believe that players should be paid. I'm not sure what Atrios means by "abusive." Football is a violent sport, but I feel positive that most of the participants are playing because they want to, not because they are forced to. I played football and very few things in life gave me more satisfaction. I loved it. I do not see how recognizing the terrible flaws in the system requires foregoing enjoying the sport. FTR, I also love boxing but also accept that it probably should be banned. Also too, concussions in the NFL.

Atrios' comment perplexes me.

Open Thread.

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    Re Afghanistan. NATO doesn't (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 01:23:09 PM EST
    include civilian deaths in its stats.  U.N. does.  This article is a depressing but necessary read:  LAT

    About boxing: I believe that the (none / 0) (#1)
    by observed on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 09:59:39 AM EST
    British medical association is in favor of bare knuckle boxing---the claim is that this would significantly reduce brain injury.

    I presume that the (none / 0) (#26)
    by Zorba on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 01:49:06 PM EST
    idea is that you won't hit as hard if you're not wearing gloves because it will hurt your hand a whole lot.  With all the padding in boxing gloves, you can hit pretty darned hard without damaging your hand.  I don't think that it would eliminate brain injury, but it might well reduce it quite a bit.

    True, no one is forcing anyone to play (none / 0) (#2)
    by ruffian on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:05:16 AM EST
    but how many players look at football as their only hope of rising above disadvantaged circumstances? Do they really feel like they have a choice? I think such players are taken advantage of, both physically and economically.

    Aside from that, Mrs Lincoln....

    So take away (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:20:27 AM EST
    "the only hope" is the right thing to do?

    Sorry, that makes no sense.


    No, don't take it away (none / 0) (#18)
    by ruffian on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 11:52:55 AM EST
    I don't know what the answer is. Just seems to me that the benefits are terribly skewed towards the powerful, as are most things in life I suppose.

    Huh? (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Addison on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 11:51:19 AM EST
    I really think you should talk to more football players before theorizing and armchair psychoanalyzing like this. Yes -- football is sometimes seen as a "way out" of poverty for youth, either through NFL play or scholarships. But it's also fun and (if you make it to the NFL) incredibly lucrative compared to the risks, which are present but likely to be deemed "worth it" regardless of your socio-economic background. And if you're "only" good enough to get a scholarship it's a pretty decent way to get a free ride education. So talk to more football players, please, because in terms of the psychology, the actual choices being made, and the benefits I feel that you're writing fiction.

    OK, so the universities and the tv networks (none / 0) (#19)
    by ruffian on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 11:56:07 AM EST
    make billions, and the players have fun, and some percentage of them get a career. I guess thats fair.

    My brother got an Ivy League education on a football scholarship, so I realize it works out great for a lot of kids.  I still think it is run for the benefit of the adults.


    Sure... (none / 0) (#21)
    by Addison on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 12:03:03 PM EST
    Well, it could be more fair. Can college players unionize? It'd be nice if they could -- perhaps they'd have to get paid as employees first (which they should, in my opinion). Anyway, I don't think anyone's questioning that it's a system that could be far fairer than it is.

    They DO get paid (none / 0) (#51)
    by jbindc on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 11:15:11 AM EST
    It's called $100k education plus room and board.

    Now, should they get a stipend foe things like spending money and such because they can't have a job during the season?  Yes.


    Considering what they earn... (none / 0) (#52)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 11:53:23 AM EST
    for their schools and the NCAA and the crooked bowls, those are slave wages.

    Eh, that's playing word games... (none / 0) (#53)
    by Addison on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 12:20:08 PM EST
    ...they aren't being paid an income. They are having charges waived. You can argue it's the same thing, but why? You know what I meant and you apparently agree. No need to be antagonistic for nothing.

    For many a sheer joy and a dream (none / 0) (#42)
    by cal1942 on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 12:04:22 AM EST
    I remember a standout local athlete (late 50s) who played football at home, at Michigan State.  A multi talented athlete, he was offered a big baseball signing bonus but opted out to play his senior season at State.  Among the reasons cited:

    The irreplaceable thrill of running out of the tunnel on game day.

    Granted that big money now makes all of the decisions like playing night games in late October north of the Ohio River when the weather can be "undesirable."  

    But, the players are there because they want to be there.


    They have another option . . . (none / 0) (#24)
    by nycstray on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 01:20:26 PM EST
    the military . . .

    When Joe Frazier passed... (none / 0) (#3)
    by magster on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:15:10 AM EST
    ... I spent an evening watching "Thrilla in Manila" "Rumble in the Jungle" "Fight of the Century" and other boxing golden era fights on youtube. While it was admittedly captivating and exciting, it was also a wonder that more boxers didn't die in the ring. One fight I watched between Jerry Clooney and Ken Norton, Norton was knocked out but tangled in the ropes while Clooney continued to uppercut Norton. That was the last youtube clip I could stomach that night.

    College football is a little different because the disgust comes from the system, not the sport. That said, I hardly ever watch college sports anymore partly because of Atrios' point (but mostly because Colorado college teams are hideous).

    I used to watch boxing... (none / 0) (#30)
    by desertswine on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:58:49 PM EST
    on TV religiosly until one night in 1980 I saw Lupe Pintor actually kill a guy. Johnny Owen (I think his name was)got hit and went down like he had been shot. Owen died later in a hospital without ever regaining consciousness. I haven't watched boxing since. Ring deaths are rare but happen (I believe Ray Mancini once did an opponent in, I remember him being quite distraught about it), certainly brain damage must be quite common, sometimes visible only years later.

    Anyway, I don't watch it or keep up with it anymore. It's just brutal.


    Concussions in the NFL (none / 0) (#5)
    by Demi Moaned on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:21:38 AM EST
    But don't the worst concussions and the numerical preponderance of them occur before the players make it to the NFL?

    Here is an ESPN story on that.... (none / 0) (#6)
    by magster on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:26:54 AM EST
    .... here

    Don't know the answer on that except (none / 0) (#7)
    by brodie on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:31:22 AM EST
    I do know that both the NFL and college have been very late to attend to the matter of serious head injuries.  In the case of the pros it seems there was a conscious decision at the top not to want to look too closely for fear of the economic repercussions the league would have wrt all the retired players and their significant medical bills.

    At least the NFL is starting to introduce rules changes to make play safer and they need to do more.  By comparison the NCAA is behind the curve on protecting players.


    My point is (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 11:14:54 AM EST
    Atrios is a fan of the Iggles.

    My high school teammate Andre Waters killed himself after suffering over 20 as an Eagle.

    No boycotting of the NFL by Atrios?


    I suppose the sanctity of our level (none / 0) (#16)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 11:38:30 AM EST
    playing field educational institutions is at risk :)

    BTD: did you read this article in the Oct Atlantic (none / 0) (#8)
    by DFLer on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:37:27 AM EST
    magazine? For me, the amount of corporate involvement and corruption of college sports was very educational.

    The Shame of College Sports

    A litany of scandals in recent years have made the corruption of college sports constant front-page news. We profess outrage each time we learn that yet another student-athlete has been taking money under the table. But the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, wherein student-athletes generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves. Here, a leading civil-rights historian makes the case for paying college athletes--and reveals how a spate of lawsuits working their way through the courts could destroy the NCAA.

    I don't think he means physically abusive. (none / 0) (#9)
    by talesoftwokitties on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:53:01 AM EST
    but abusive = corrupt or wrongly used.

    "Explotative" might be a better word (none / 0) (#13)
    by magster on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 11:12:07 AM EST
    errr "exploitative" (none / 0) (#14)
    by magster on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 11:14:33 AM EST
    "explotative" is instead a word used by college football commentators about a fast RB.

    Ya can't expect those of us who live (none / 0) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:56:00 AM EST
    in our noodles to understand the visceral athlete.  The visceral athlete never cares if something is fair, in fact if it isn't fair and it is weighted against them and they win they relish that even more.  It is so sweet.

    My husband's family is wired that way.  Even his sister, they must move, destroy, compete.  Some of her cross country H.S. records still stand in Michigan.  Sometimes when my husband has not been able to physically "express himself" he is not at his best.  It keeps him sane.....and he has RA and he is still tearing it up out there because he must.

    Right now he is part of some old guy Ultimate Frisbee team.  Less severe injuries playing that, soldiers and particularly pilots must look for ways to stay in shape and compete that don't make them undeployable so the whole of Fort Rucker is usually playing it.  Anyhow, the old guys have slaughtered all the other teams this year.  They cruise the fields during P.T. looking for new flight school teams to play against.  They send taunting emails to those who duck out of playing them.  They are kind of vile at this point, but the fact that they shouldn't be winning because they are too old and they still are makes them all grin like a pack of wolves.

    As long as he's (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Edger on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:59:08 AM EST
    not dragging you around by your hair, it's probably harmless, maybe? ;-)

    I would kill him (none / 0) (#33)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:01:19 PM EST
    He knows this :) Boudica got nuthin on me :)  You know those bad squirrels that stole my peaches?  I asked my son if I could borrow his BB gun today because one of them was perched on a limb outside.  BAD SQUIRREL!  First shot missed, second shot hit...made him mad.  Mad enough to move?  Time will tell but my husband saw me do it.  HE KNOWS :)

    I kinda had that feeling (none / 0) (#34)
    by Edger on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:16:33 PM EST
    you know? ;-)

    Be careful MT. DId you read about the (none / 0) (#35)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 06:10:10 PM EST
    23 guy shooting moles?  Next to a school.  Neighbor called cops, who ended up shooting the guy in the leg.  (Please do not reveal this to kdog.)  Guy was using a BB gun.  

    Holy Cow! (none / 0) (#39)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 07:11:00 PM EST
    Josh has that old time standard Red Rider.  It isn't very powerful.  I don't think it could enter a squirrel.  My husband said that he had a much different BB gun though when he got older, much more powerful sort of like a 22.  Can you imagine the police shooting you in the leg for packing a Red Rider?

    I gather atrios' thing is short and sweet (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 10:57:08 AM EST
    posts.  But wouldn't you think he'd reveal if he is a sports fan/college sports fan?

    Atrios and Sports (none / 0) (#20)
    by Addison on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 12:00:29 PM EST
    I commented at Eschaton back in 2003 and 2004, and one thing I'll always remember is that many commenters there were enamored with the theory that sports fans were delusional idiots. With the Chomsky-derived idea (ideal?) that if only sports fans would apply their interest in stats and passion for tribalism to politics we'd all be much better off. As if that's not just a crypto-elitist way to put down the sorts of people who like sports -- while, at the same time, ignoring the fact that looking at paintings or listening to opera or reading fiction (etc.) is not really objectively more "useful" than sports. These things are all entertainment types that provide emotional release and a high potential for deep and intellectual analysis.

    I don't know if Duncan Black agrees with this viewpoint. I think he doesn't as he appears to watch some games, albeit with a droll POV (sample post: "I am watching my local sports franchise engage in an even more pointless than usual sporting competition"). I think he understands that it's one form of entertainment among many, and that people can choose what they want. But there is an anti-sports attitude suffusing his site.


    I know what you mean, and I balance on that brink (none / 0) (#22)
    by ruffian on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 12:49:42 PM EST
    myself sometimes these days, after being a a big sports fan much of my life.  It is wrong to think other forms of entertainment are superior simply because I've lost my taste for sports.

    And as far as exploitation is concerned, most everything includes at least a little of that, I realize as I type on my keyboard  made for cents on the dollar someplace in China.

    I've been going through a pass of 'is this all there is?' lately as all my weekends blend in to a haze of housework, dog play, routine socializing,  multiple forms of word-consumption/production,  multiple forms of visual consumption/production....maybe I should go back to watching football.


    Time for NYC. I will say I've never (5.00 / 0) (#23)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 01:06:39 PM EST
    heard of a bibliophile being severely beaten in the library parking lot by another bibliphile.  See Dodger Stadium and Qualcaomm last Thurs. night:  Raiders @ Chargers.  

    Geithner makes front page, above (none / 0) (#27)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 02:25:44 PM EST
    the fold of yesterday's NYT:  link

    that was depressing!!!!! (none / 0) (#32)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:57:34 PM EST
    as soon as someone figured out (none / 0) (#28)
    by cpinva on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:46:52 PM EST
    there was money to made in sports (see: olympics, ancient greece), they became corrupt. some sports (boxing comes to mind) more corrupt than others. the ncaa exists solely to make sure the schools benefit from the corruption, not just the actual corruptors. the bcs exists to ensure that the biggest name schools get the bulk of the cash made by the corruption. the athletes are simply the workforce used to generate all that corrupt cash.

    really, it's a great business model.

    i played football, and enjoyed the heck out it. probably kept me out of jail in hs; i got to commit violent assault, every week, on guys i didn't know. i got praised for it, instead of being incarcerated. i don't know about the whole "building character" claptrap, unless they meant vicious character. one advantage i had, over lots of my teammates, was that i could read & write, at greater than a merely functional illiterate level. made a huge difference in college.

    I prefer to keep a rosy-eyed view of (none / 0) (#29)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 03:54:10 PM EST
    college rowing--at least as to the NCAA women's teams.  Great young women in more than their sport.  

    I think that (none / 0) (#31)
    by Zorba on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:03:08 PM EST
    there are more sports at the college level that are relatively unsullied by the "Big Sports" NCAA type of mentality than just rowing, oculus, but I know what you're talking about.  I'm rather fond of college fencing and archery, having participated in both sports to a certain extent in my much, much younger days.

    Zorba, the fencer. Now there's an image I (none / 0) (#36)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 06:11:17 PM EST
    did not have.  

    better than a meat (none / 0) (#38)
    by jeffinalabama on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 06:47:11 PM EST

    Come the revolution (none / 0) (#37)
    by sj on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 06:45:22 PM EST
    You'll be not only able to feed your household, but defend it.

    Well, come to think of it, sj (none / 0) (#49)
    by Zorba on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 08:02:30 AM EST
    I enjoyed fencing and archery when I was young, I like my good kitchen knives now-  I'm seeing a pattern here.  Maybe I just like sharp, potentially dangerous things!  I can probably still draw a bow, but I seriously doubt that I could get into proper fencing position any more.

    ordinarily, i might agree with you. (none / 0) (#40)
    by cpinva on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 09:13:46 PM EST
    however, the only reason most women's sports exist at the college level is because of Title IX, which mandated it for any school receiving (directly or indirectly) federal funds. absent that requirement, and the majority of women's teams, at the college level, would disappear overnite. the ncaa sees these teams as more a nuisance than anything else, and would be just as happy to see them go.

    don't get me wrong, i'm a huge fan of women's basketball. while a student at ODU, in the mid 70's, the women's team played the best game in town, far superior to the men's team, consistently. those ladies could play some ball!

    the harsh reality is that, except for football, basketball and (at some schools) baseball, the rest don't break even, in terms of revenue production. sadly, that includes fencing & archery, both of which i also participated in, in my errant youth.


    A handful of campuses "break even" (5.00 / 0) (#43)
    by Towanda on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 12:08:19 AM EST
    for the cost of college sports.

    The real costs are never stated, as so many of the costs -- coaches' salaries ("instructors" who rarely if ever teach, grade, serve on committees, etc., but make more than any real faculty, even more than campus presidents) plus other staff salaries, office supplies, overhead for the fanciest offices on campus and other massive facilities that need massive maintenance, etc. -- are not accounted for under the sports programs but under the academic programs such as human kinetics (new label for ol' phy ed).

    And many sports programs then just keep the event revenue in the sports programs and not into general operating costs for the campuses, and is is the other programs' faculty who are teaching and grading and advising "student athletes" and somehow getting some of them to graduation, despite all of the orders to let borderline students miss classes to go play games.

    So sports programs add coaches while faculty are being cut in other programs.  They build palaces while libraries and labs are being closed in other programs.  Ask public policy economists who have calculated real costs of sports programs on most campuses; they do not "break even" but come at the cost to the academic side of campuses.

    That is why the college sports system is corrupt, overall, for the benefit of pro football and pro basketball.  The NFL (the worst offender, as football is far costlier than others) and NBA ought to pay for their own training programs,  farm teams, minor leagues, as pro baseball does.

    Let the NFL and the NBA build stadiums and arenas near campuses and set up their own training programs and pay the players enough for tuition and books and room and board -- and let the NFL and NBA charge enough to watch the games to cover the costs.  Hmmm, why would they not want to do so?  They would have to fund their training programs from their own NFL and NBA revenues, and they would have to scale back themselves in a big way on their perks to even "break even."


    Hockey (none / 0) (#44)
    by cal1942 on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 12:16:40 AM EST
    You forgot hockey cpinva.  Hockey is a revenue sport at some schools.

    Of course it's a federal mandate. Nevertheless, (none / 0) (#46)
    by oculus on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 12:53:37 AM EST
    it's great to see fine athletes who are also fine people.  

    Broncos play throwback football today (none / 0) (#41)
    by CoralGables on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 09:44:36 PM EST
    55 running plays and 8 passes. They control the clock and the game. Woody Hayes would have been proud.

    How'd my guy do? (none / 0) (#45)
    by oculus on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 12:52:53 AM EST
    Your boy timmen? (none / 0) (#54)
    by rdandrea on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 04:11:51 PM EST
    2 for 8 with 1 TD and no INT passing, 69 yards.  9 rushes for 43 yards and 1 TD, no fumbles.

    Pitiful by modern NFL standards, but good enough to win.


    er, Timmeh (none / 0) (#55)
    by rdandrea on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 04:12:06 PM EST
    Oddly enough (none / 0) (#56)
    by CoralGables on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 04:30:40 PM EST
    In the NFL Quarterback Ratings, he was the 5th best QB for the week.

    The Chiefs seemed so concerned with the possibility of Tebow running that the Bronco running backs ran roughshod over the Chiefs.


    I understood "abuse" as (none / 0) (#48)
    by BobTinKY on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 07:59:28 AM EST
    being lack of payment to players who take on the wear & tear, injuries etc while colleges reap the $$$.

    Sorry to be late on this (none / 0) (#50)
    by call me Ishmael on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 10:49:02 AM EST
    one.  But I think that part of the problem is the demands placed on athletes by their coaches.  I teach at a place with a large football program and I know that the football players especially have expressed to me the fact that they find it hard to keep up with classes--and these are those who want to--because of the demands placed on them by their coaches.  They leave class early because they can't be late to get taped, they are expected to be at the gym early and late, etc.  Obviously they have a choice about being on sports teams.  But they do give up a lot of control over their life and freedom.

    What is interesting is that I get much less sense of this from the lower profile sports like golf or tennis.  Not because the demands aren't the same but because they often seem not to care so much about missing class etc.