Archive for November, 2004

Why I Dislike College Football

Nov 10, 2004 in Pop Culture

Now that it’s well past post-election time, back to our regularly scheduled blog…

Football season is winding to a close, and while I could probably care less, it appears that our Middle Tennesee State University football team is in danger of losing their NCAA 1-A division status due to a lack of game attendance and student support. When queried about their lack of support, most MTSU students noted that they are simply not football fans, and could care less either way.

The athletics department has tried several tricks to lure students to the games, including a nationally-publicized appearance by Big Boi of Outkast; a move that cost the university $82,000 and failed to bring in the crowds (The scheduled hour-long performance was also cut short by rain.) The fact that the football team is mediocre and this is largely a commuter college without a football tradition or strong rivalries doesn’t help matters much either.

Which brings me to express some long-held gripes about the cultural juggernaut that is college football. Before moving here to attend school, I lived in Columbus, Ohio; home of the Ohio State Buckeyes and a huge football town. Being an out-of-towner who did not attend OSU, I could have cared less about the team’s performance. But from September to November every year, the spectre of football season is inescapable for anyone who lives in a large college town. Co-workers chat you up about football, which you have to admit that you care or know nothing about. Saturday afternoon traffic jams made it a chore to get to work. Not to mention the threat of rioting.

(The riot that took place in 2002 after the team’s victory over archrival Michigan was especially raucous, despite repeated warning from school officials to keep the peace. I was also there in 2003 when OSU won the national championship. It was a largely happy and peaceful occasion, with people walking the streets and celebrating. But shortly after the game, a drunken reveler hit a utility pole near my house, leaving our neighborhood in darkness for an entire mid-winter’s night.)

It should be obvious that I’m not a football fan. But I don’t understand the attention paid to the performance of unpaid college football players. The NFL is one thing; these players are highly-paid professionals whose job it is to win games. But fans and universities have assigned paramount importance to college athletic performance, and this often comes to the detriment of education and to a school’s reputation.

The massive amounts of money spent on something that should be an intramural activity is obscene: Millions in tuition fees, alumni gifts and taxpayer dollars are spent to construct new sports complexes, pay exorbitant coaching salaries and recruit high school players. While some schools stand to make a mint on ticket sales, merchandising, and alumni donations, many schools actually lose money on their football and basketball programs. And studies have shown that a winning sports team has little benefit — financial or otherwise — for most schools.

The abuses that stem from this mentality are legion: ballooning athletic budgets, recruiting and coaching scandals, alcohol and stripper parties, sexual harassment and rape, illegal financial incentives paid to players by athletic boosters, and poor academic performance by players.

A university is a place to receive an education. It is also a place for academic research, to explore new ideas, and to gain life experiences. Sure, I understand that it is often a proving ground for future professional athletes, but they should be there to receive an education first. (And there’s always the minor leagues).

A jock who can throw a ball is offered a full scholarship to play college football, despite the fact that they wouldn’t have otherwise qualified to attend a university. A substantial number of college football players never graduate. Academic “help” is sometimes offered to college athletes in the form of easy classes, no-fail professors and students who write term papers and take tests for them.

To most big college football fans, it seems that the sole purpose of a university is to produce a winning football team. Many fans never even went to college, much less the college that they’re rooting for. And the behavior of some fans is just downright obnoxious.

All of the above is why I’m glad I don’t attend a football school. Many of the students who came here did so for reasons other than the football team’s performance. And those of us who aren’t college football fans are tired of having it shoved down our throats. If local residents, alumni and students want to support their team, so be it. But football should not be of such importance to a university, especially when it comes to the detriment of education.

The right wing domination of American government has begun

Nov 03, 2004 in Current Events

Despite an unpopular war in Iraq, thousands of American dead, countless Iraqi civilian dead, the failure to capture bin Laden, misleading statements on WMDs, an arrogant and belligerent foreign policy, the failure to adequately fund homeland security, a $413 billion federal deficit (down from a $230 billion surplus in 2000), 600,000 jobs lost (the only president to do so since the Great Depression), tax cuts for the rich, kowtowing to corporate interests, curtailment of civil liberties, dismantling of environmental protections, the promotion of pseudo-science (stem cells and global warming) and a right-wing agenda (abortion, gay marriage), excessive secrecy, vindictive actions towards critics, anti-intellectualism, a low approval rating, worldwide unpopularity, the largest protests since Vietnam, poor debate performance and a record voter turnout, the people of the United States have chosen to re-elect George W. Bush as president.

Apparently, incompetence is not a significantly negative factor if you’re a Republican. Other Republican incumbents who won their races include Kentucky senator Jim Bunning, whose bizarre behavior includes statements that his opponent looked like one of Saddam’s sons, and that his wife was beaten black and blue by his opponent’s staffers. He refused to debate his opponent in person, relying on the help of a teleprompter via satellite from the RNC headquarters in DC. He also admitted that he doesn’t read the news (aside from Fox News), and was unaware that a reservist unit refused a mission in Iraq.

Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowski also won reelection, despite concerns of nepotism after her father appointed her to the Senate seat that he vacated. New Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn made a bizarre statement about “rampant lesbianism” in Oklahoma schools, supports the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions, and called state legislators “crapheads.” New South Carolina senator Jim DeMint remarked in a debate that homosexuals and unwed pregnant mothers should not be allowed to work as schoolteachers.

The right wing has won the election fight in their culture war, securing control of Congress, the White House, and the possibility of Supreme Court appointments in the next few years. But the Republicans need to be aware that well over 40% of the country did not vote for them, and those slim margins of victory can vanish next time they’re up for election. We need to put them on notice that a significant portion of the electorate will not tolerate extreme right-wing agendas, legislated discrimination and intolerance, corporate cronyism, the ransacking of the environment, unfair tax breaks for the wealthy, global imperialism (especially the misguided and incompetent use of our military strength) and the supression of our freedoms. If they choose to advance the agendas of the Christian right, the neoconservative hawks and the wealthy corporate elite at the expense of the poor, the working class, minorities, gays, young people and the rest of the world’s citizenry, there’s going to be some agitation.

Obligatory Election Day Post

Nov 02, 2004 in Current Events

So it’s Election Day, and there’s a palpable sense of anxiety in the air. In less than 24 hours, we’ll find out whether we’ll even know who the next president is. With the high number of mail-in voters, absentee ballots, and provisional ballots in this close election — not to mention the possible legal challenges — it may be weeks before we even know who won the presidential election.

Could this country be any more divided? Half of the country wants change, and the other half want things to stay the way they are. This 50/50 split also accurately reflects the cultural divide between red/blue states and rural/urban areas. Two Americas, indeed. How did our country become so ideologically split down the middle? Whatever happened to progressivism, to moving this country forward? How did this country end up so far to the right, while the rest of the world is moving towards the left?

While researching the local candidates for the U.S House of Representatives and the Tennesee State Legislature, I noticed that, at least around here, there is little ideological difference between the Democratic and Republican candidates. Apparently this is a trend in other states as well, according to this CNN article (”Democrats for Senate tend to lean right”).

Red State Candidate A: I think marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Red State Candidate B: I too think marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Red State Candidate B: I oppose new taxes, and think that taxes should be lowered.
Red State Candidate A: I too, oppose new taxes, and think that taxes should be lowered

Red State Candidate A: Candidate B is out of touch with the voters in this state, and has an undistinguished record.
Red State Candidate B: I think my record stands for itself, and it is Candidate A who is out of touch with the voters.

and ad infinitum…