the separation of teacher and bleacher.

i don’t mind admitting that i don’t understand the purpose of college sports.

it goes without saying that i believe universities should focus on academics rather than sponsoring what is basically a minor league team. baseball and hockey have a well-defined system of private businesses and individuals coming together to bankroll semi-pro teams where athletes can mature and learn the fundamentals of their game before possibly one day being called up to the big leagues. basketball and football, to my knowledge, lack this structure, and instead use academic institutions and taxpayer funds in order to achieve the same. some will argue that revenues generated from these events help fund other pursuits, such as science equipment and music halls, but after calculating all the costs associated with these sports, from facilities to trips to other schools, i can’t imagine many of these teams have much in the way of surplus funds. why would they hire fundraisers who canvas the community for more money if they are not only self-sufficient but wealthy enough to prop up under-performing areas?

coaches at the university level are paid; athletes, because they are students, are not, though they are reimbursed with scholarships and stipends, inflated gpas, and simple jobs. the legality of these avenues of payment are debateable, but if we remove the university from this equation and make the students into the athletes that we are treating them as anyway, then they can receive a contract from a minor league organization. give people the choice where they can enter college in hopes of obtaining a degree and perhaps participate in intramural sports along the way or let them train in hopes of guaranteeing a position on the squad for the upcoming season and work their way toward achieving their dream as a professional athlete.

it’s depressing that a school’s ranking in the associated press poll is seen as more of an accomplishment than the fact that one of its professors is a nobel laureate or that research there has brought an end to — or abatement of — some disease. people will readily pack the stands or watch a contest on television but are more than hesitant to attend a lecture or other event that the college was initially constructed to hold.

i thought about all the above while sitting at a bar while duke university and the university of north carolina at chapel hill, the blue devils and the tarheels if you will, played basketball. i was surrounded by people who were fervent admirers of one side while harboring animosity for the opposition, people who were alumnis of neither school but rallied behind them nonetheless. it wasn’t the school they were rooting for necessarily, and it couldn’t be the players for whom they were attached because none of them played more than four years before advancing.

perhaps people are able to identify with sports heroes due to nostalgia, due to their childhood practices and championship games. sports offers a chance to relive those moments vicariously through someone who is better than us. scholastics cannot do that. when pierre de fermat’s last theorem was finally proven in 1995, not one of us was fondly reminded of the house where we grew up, sitting at a desk, puzzling away to solve it.


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