Why do the winners riot?

Ohio State beat Oregon to win the collegiate football championship, the first one under the new playoff system.

Question:  Why in America do fans of the winners of big games riot, setting fires, breaking things, threatening cops?  In other countries, sports violence is a problem, but my impression is that it’s usually losers and fans who feel cheated who start tearing up things.

To switch to the NFL, I don’t think Detroit fans rioted when the penalty flags against Dallas were picked up, and no one rioted in Dallas when an apparent catch was ruled incomplete in the game won by Green Bay [hooray!].  And there were no riots in Oregon.  But the victorious Ohio State fans felt so happy that they set 89 fires. [Read more...]

College Football Playoff controversy

This year we will have a college football championship playoff, eliminating all of that controversy over end-of-the-season ratings.  So we thought.  But there is still controversy about which four teams were selected to play.  Earlier last week, Texas Christian University was ranked #3, going on to defeat Iowa State by 52 points.  But when the final four was announced, Ohio State made the cut, leap-frogging both TCU and Baylor! [Read more...]

Unions for college football players

The National Labor Relations Board, acting on a case brought by Northwestern University athletes, has ruled that college football players qualify as employees and so have the right to unionize. [Read more...]

Changing West Point in the name of football

West Point has very high standards.  It’s hard to get into.  Cadets have to be outstanding not just in academics but in leadership and other personal qualities.  This is because West Point is not just a good college.  It’s where our elite army officers are formed.

But it doesn’t have a good football team!  And it’s lost to Navy for the past 12 years!  How can that be?  Something must be done!

So some school officials, alumni, and army brass are proposing that West Point change its admissions standards so that the athletic program can recruit really good football players. [Read more...]

Progressivism and college football

George Will reviews The Rise of Gridiron University: Higher Education’s Uneasy Alliance with Big-Time Football by Brian M. Ingrassia, in which we learn that big-time intercollegiate football grew out of progressivism and its vision for higher education:

Higher education embraced athletics in the first half of the 19th century, when most colleges were denominational and most instruction was considered mental and moral preparation for a small minority — clergy and other professionals. Physical education had nothing to do with spectator sports entertaining people from outside the campus community. Rather, it was individual fitness — especially gymnastics — for the moral and pedagogic purposes of muscular Christianity — mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body.

The collective activity of team sports came after a great collective exertion, the Civil War, and two great social changes, urbanization and industrialization. . . . .

Intercollegiate football began when Rutgers played Princeton in 1869, four years after Appomattox. In 1878, one of Princeton’s two undergraduate student managers was Thomas — he was called Tommy — Woodrow Wilson. For the rest of the 19th century, football appealed as a venue for valor for collegians whose fathers’ venues had been battlefields. Stephen Crane, author of the Civil War novel “The Red Badge of Courage” (1895) — the badge was a wound — said: “Of course, I have never been in a battle, but I believe that I got my sense of the rage of conflict on the football field.”

Harvard philosopher William James then spoke of society finding new sources of discipline and inspiration in “the moral equivalent of war.” Society found football, which like war required the subordination of the individual, and which would relieve the supposed monotony of workers enmeshed in mass production.

College football became a national phenomenon because it supposedly served the values of progressivism, in two ways. It exemplified specialization, expertise and scientific management. And it would reconcile the public to the transformation of universities, especially public universities, into something progressivism desired but the public found alien. Replicating industrialism’s division of labor, universities introduced the fragmentation of the old curriculum of moral instruction into increasingly specialized and arcane disciplines. These included the recently founded social sciences — economics, sociology, political science — that were supposed to supply progressive governments with the expertise to manage the complexities of the modern economy and the simplicities of the uninstructed masses. [Read more...]

Penn State’s punishment

The NCAA did not kill off completely Penn State’s football program, as was widely expected, but the sanctions for the child sexual abuse scandal and its coverup were pretty harsh:

NCAA President Mark Emmert made the announcement Monday morning that the program would be hit with a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine. He called the case “unprecedented.”

In addition, the school will be forced to cut 10 scholarships for this season and 20 scholarships for the following four years.

The move essentially bumps Penn State down to the scholarship levels of schools at the lower Football Championship Subdivision.

The school will be forced to vacate all wins from 1998-2011, a total of 112 victories, and serve five years of probation.

The loss of victories means Joe Paterno is no longer college football’s winningest coach. He was fired in November during the scandal after 409 wins at the school.

Because of the length of the punishment, all current Penn State players and incoming freshman will be free to transfer to another school without penalty.

Is this an example of completely justified outrage taking the place of justice?  Normally, guilty individuals are punished, and surely those who knew about Coach Jerry Sandusky’s sex with little boys and did nothing about it need to be called to account.  But the Penn State players, students, and alumni didn’t know what was going on.  Why are they being punished?  Or is there corporate guilt, in which every member of an institution has a share in its transgressions?

If part of the problem in the cover up was the cultural climate of football uber alles, the corporate guilt would extend far beyond Penn State, to big time football universities as a whole and to the NCAA itself.

Also, is the NCAA acting beyond its jurisdiction?  Penn State did not violate any of the rules that the NCAA is supposed to enforce (such as recruiting violations, paying players, and the like).   Isn’t child abuse a matter for the criminal justice system and civil courts to take care of, rather than a sports organization?

And what kind of punishment is it to forfeit 13 years worth of games that have already been played?  It isn’t as if an ineligible player contributed to illicit victories that might otherwise be losses if it were not for the infraction.  How does that punishment have to do with the crime?

Don’t get me wrong:  I am repulsed by what happened at Penn State and want it addressed in the strongest possible way.  I just don’t understand the  NCAA action.  What would be better?


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