(stick with it, the first jokes aren’t very good)
In case you don’t know, college sports is in trouble. Now, a certain (non-me) writer of this blog may complain that another recent news-item may be more pertinent for discussion at this point in time. But the thing gripping Americans right now is not Euro-panic. It’s not even supercommittee-failure-panic (it’s okay) or are-repubs-really-going-to-nominate-Newt-Gingrich-panic (no). In the wake of the Joe Paterno scandal at Penn State, college sports seems to have entered a crisis, or at least a severe brooding-over. To understand why a revered coach looking the other way at a child-raping subordinate can jeopardise the whole institution of college sports, remember the Catholic Church. Child molestation was so destructive to the Catholic Church not because most people are little boys who are afraid they are going to be molested by their priest, but because the Church’s greatest power was that it held the moral high ground, which it doesn’t anymore. c.f. Zach Weiner’s “preachy cartoon”. And similarly, a large part of the appeal of college sports rests, in some unfathomable way, on its purported moral superiority. So that’s why one child-rape-ignoring coach can lead to a brooding frenzy. Also, people enjoy talking about stuff, I guess.
Oh yeah, one more reason college sports is so fragile is that it never made any sense to begin with. It’s one more foray into the art of the possible, a uniquely American mix like linking your employer with your health insurance or linking highway funding with state drinking ages. It’s a connection that came about not because there was some actual connection, but because it was a way to kill two birds with one stone, and most of the time everything works out. It may shamble along pretty well, but when you come to the shortcomings, you try to resolve the inconsistencies inherent in the system, and you find that you can’t, because the system itself is an inconsistency.
Presumably, college sports evolved somewhat like high school sports. That is, people were at college, and incidentally, they were playing sports because sports is fun. Then some colleges started playing against one another. Because college pride is at stake, it became “important” to win for sentimental bullshit reasons (this is the connection to the song in this post). So you can see why athletic scholarships developed, but why are people getting scholarships to go to college for something that’s totally unrelated to going to college? I’m sure that if you’re very beautiful, for example, you improve the college you attend just by your hotness. And yet there’s no colleges that give beauty scholarships and the entire idea sounds ludicrous.
But then, okay, there’s this college sports system. And the problem with it is that kids are being taken advantage of to generate giant revenues for colleges and giant paychecks for coaches and they don’t get much out of it. And my proposed solution is to eliminate scholarships for the kids? How backassward is that? The lesson learned here is that consistency is overrated. Scalia may love it, but when the letter of the law gives ridiculous results, that’s not an indication that the rule of law is strong. It’s an indication that the law needs to be changed. College sports makes no sense, and the way to make it make sense would make it even shittier for the participants. So let’s do something else.
In other words, I’m not buying Chait’s argument that student athletes shouldn’t be paid ’cause it wouldn’t make much sense. Then again, I don’t even ever watch college sports or care about it, so I don’t see why not get rid of it entirely and go with a CHL-like solution.