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Six Reasons I Loathe College Sports

Some of you will hate me for this. I know that. But I gotta say it.

It has come to my attention recently that a lot of people really, really love college sports. Just kidding, I always knew that. What I mean is that it has come to my attention recently that I really hate college sports. And maybe that I have some good reasons for feeling that way. Here, in descending order of significance are my six top reasons for unceasing loathing:

Do I need to say more?
6. As a form of entertainment, sports lack substance. 
This has more to do with why I dislike sports in general as a spectator, but it also applies to college in special ways. I believe that the media we consume should do something to the mind as well as the emotions. Works of entertainment-based art that appeal only to primitive instinct and offer no intellectual stimulation tend to be decidedly lacking. But wait, what about sitcoms? Or pop music, you say? The best pop artists always have an agenda that is shrouded in metaphor (Madonna, Beyoncé, etc.). The best sitcoms probe the depths of the human condition while also being funny (Frasier, Friends, etc.). Sports don't do that. They appeal only to our primitive, barbaric emotional responses. And when we watch sports, we behave like animals.

Just sharing some research.
Nothing to see here.
5. The arbitrary nature of the games encourages baseless fanaticism. 
Because there is no underlying purpose or aim for sports other than to generate a controlled competitive environment, loyalties ultimately become based on nothing more than proximity. Why do you root for Ohio State? Because you went to school there. Or because you live nearby. That's not a reason to love something... that's like religious fanatics who think their religion is great because their parents did. And we think that's foolish, immature, and shameful, right? Some say that sports events build camaraderie or a sense of community. But I see the opposite of that. They pit schools against one another by creating an artificially heightened sense of loyalty.

4. It takes too damn long.
The average football or basketball game lasts around three hours. Let's think of other things that take around three hours:
  • Two Mahler Symphonies
  • The Fellowship of the Ring
  • 6 to 8 Mozart Symphonies
  • An opera
  • Cooking Thanksgiving dinner
  • Driving about 200 miles
Typically we reserve lengthy activities for things which have high payoff intellectually or physically. Things that we deem too long for their own good, like Wagner, are often ridiculed. Why do we put up with inordinately long sporting events when the payoff is less rewarding than 30 minutes of Ancient Aliens?

No glass ceiling here! At USC the ladies major in
sophisticated fields of research and discourse.
3. It's abhorrently, shamelessly, and hopelessly sexist.
I don't think I need to reiterate that popular sports are male dominated. In academia we've worked hard to all but eradicate sexist hiring and admissions in (almost) every field of study. Why are the "flagship" teams that give the university national exposure dominated by men? And why are there NO roles for women in the whole pageant? Oh wait, I guess the ladies can be cheerleaders. Imagine if there were a drama on primetime in which every week there were only male characters and they spent the entire show making references to their masculine strength and occasionally beating each other up. And the female roles were only minor characters, always dressed in miniskirts and only ever said endearing things about the male characters. Oh yeah, there were shows like that. In 1961. Would you take a program like that seriously today? Also, it's three hours long.

2. It distracts from the real values of academia.
What are  you thinking of right now? The Quidditch team?
The blatant sexism is enough reason to shun the institution of sports in academia. But if you happen to be an old bigoted WASP, there are still reasons to abhor the spectacle. It advertises the university as something other than a vehicle for academic pursuit. A justification I often hear is that the immense popularity of college sports helps give the university greater exposure. But isn't that a little like false advertising? If I run an ad on craigslist that says "Philip Rice: Bargain Prostitute" I'll get a lot of exposure (hopefully only the metaphorical kind). But if I'm actually selling musical compositions, that kind of advertising doesn't really make sense. It's actually a lie. And the whole "building prestige" or "raising money" arguments don't work when you consider the Ivy League... virtually sportsless but still household names (and rolling in endowments to boot), known and rewarded for what they actually do: offer a good education. Guess what never happened while I lived in Princeton, NJ? Game day.

"I got a Bachelors of Basketball. Double-
majored in chauvinism and barbaria"  
1. It celebrates the triumph of the body over the triumph of the mind.
Maybe this reason is a little idealistic. But I think that as members of academia, as people who have chosen a college education, we have chosen to venerate the mind as a more powerful medium of expression and meaning than the body. The pen is mightier than the sword. Isn't that what we're supposed to believe at college? That's not exactly the vibe I'm getting from the sports teams. I'm getting a lot of sword. And it's not exactly fair to the players either. They often find themselves trapped in an institution that offered them gobs of money to promote the university, but that at the end of the day doesn't actually value what they do. Turns out being on the team is extra-curricular. It doesn't actually help your grades... it usually hurts them. Having a high-visibility sports team at college makes about as much sense as having writing or debate as a main televised event in the Olympics.

And here's some food for thought: the library at MSU closes early on game days. If that doesn't make you squirm a little, then you probably quit reading after #5. 

I know that sports are fun to watch. I get it. I know that it brings people together (as long as they're rooting for the same team, otherwise it makes them violent and confrontational). And I don't think that sports as a part of human culture is actually a bad idea. Our bodies are powerful expressers just like our minds, and can be seen as a crowning human achievement. Pro sports are one thing—they're not pretending to be something they're not. They are a form of commercial entertainment where values are internally consistent and the ends supposedly justify the means. College sports are something else. It doesn't make any sense to insert them into an institution that has worked so hard to promote equality and education.