What’s Best?

In a recent post I noted that the template for so many activities we humans engage in has been created by business. We have become a nation of shopkeepers governed by shopkeepers with tiny minds. I mentioned the health-care industry (note the noun) and education — which I have commented about endlessly, some might say. I should have mentioned sports, especially professional sports.

I noted repeatedly the increasing movement toward business in NCAA I sports, especially football and basketball. But I might also have noted the effects of huge amounts of money in professional sports. Because in both cases it is money that is indeed the root of the evil. I  recall a discussion I heard on ESPN recently among four men and one woman, who all agreed that the trend toward football players opting out of the meaningless Bowl Games at the end of the year is perfectly OK because these young men “must do what is best for them” — meaning, they must do whatever necessary in order to make as much money as possible in professional sports.

Now I have a habit of whistling into the wind, as some might have noted. Some will insist that I am blind to reality. But I will agree that young men should do what is best for them, and even agree that they would be wise to maximize their income in a sport that may well cripple them. But there is the fact, ignored by so many these days, that these young men do have a responsibility to their college teams and it is not clear that making the most money possible is indeed what is best for them. In any event, the trend started last year when a couple  of young men who knew they were to be high draft picks in the upcoming NFL draft refused to play in their team’s Bowl Games after the regular season ended. This year a player on the Ohio State football team chose to withdraw from the team in mid-season because he knows he will assuredly be a high draft pick and didn’t want to get hurt after returning to the team and therefore lower his chances of landing a big contract from some NFL team or other.

Coaches used to like to say, “There  is no ‘I’ in team.” But then a great many coaches jump ship whenever they get a better offer from another university and the players who sign on with them are often severely disappointed, even frustrated. They have learned to be suspicious and take promises at their face value — which value is becoming increasingly worthless. Now players can transfer from university to university and become immediately eligible to play on their new team, and, as I have noted, the really good ones feel free to quit if they think their professional futures are in jeopardy, given the violence of the game they play. To be sure there is a risk. There are millions of dollars involved. And that is the rub.

The trend toward opting out of the Bowl Games is one that the experts are convinced will grow as more and more players with potential to become highly paid professional players realize that by playing in what is in so many ways a meaningless game they would jeopardize their future wealth. All five talking heads I referred to above agree that this is coming, if it is not already here, and it is perfectly OK. They saw nothing whatever wrong with it. And this speaks volumes when it comes to understanding what is going on in our post-modern society. It is all about money. End of story.

But I will not end the story because not all things should be about money. Health care certainly should not. Education assuredly should not. And a young man or woman who plays for a collegiate sports team and accepts a full scholarship should pause before choosing to quit before their season ends — even if that season ends in a meaningless Bowl Game. Because let’s face it, all of the games are meaningless in the grand scheme of things; and the Bowl Games, as absurd as they are, are still a part of the football season and are prized by many who play the sport and are not good enough to expect a professional contract when they are finished.

In a word, there is a responsibility to the team here, a responsibility that is totally ignored because we have all become so inured to the parade of fools who sell their better selves for filthy lucre. It is not all about money. Sports are not and education and health care certainly are not. And yet the fact that we have allowed the business model to become so very prominent in our culture causes us to ignore the deeper levels of human behavior — such things as character, for example. And this seems to me to be a serious problem we might well consider as we casually dismiss the latest young man or woman who is concerned only about “what is best for them.”



8 thoughts on “What’s Best?

  1. Ah, whistle in the wind, Profesor Curtler, as there are some who are down wind and embrace your messages. Some might be too busy to hear any of the subtle stirrings, but deep down they know that many things are amiss in today’s world.

    I truly forget about what’s happening in the sports world ‘up there’ but yes, I suppose the televisions have lots of events/ are reporting the good and not-so-good… May some new stars step forward and be positive role models for all who are watching!

    Keep whistling!

  2. Because sports are competitive they fit perfectly into the capitalistic system the only snag is the old fashioned idea sportsmanship whereby the loser is gracious about his or her defeat. I have noticed that sportsmanship is dying , footballers pretend to be injured to gain advantage , drugs are used when the chance of being caught is small.

    • Yes. Sportsmanship is on the wane and we are giving trophies to all players indiscriminately so everyone is a winner — which is to say, no one is. And without losers kids don’t learn the valuable lessons we all learn from failure.

  3. Hugh, I was unaware of the checking out early approach for prospective pro athletes. I understand why, but it does go against the grain. Here is my question. Would a pro team not consider a player because of putting self before the team. Would he not also do this as a pro is a question I would ask? Plus, how would teammates feel about such an attitude as they bust their butts in practice and games.

    Call me crazy, but if I were a GM, I would not draft such a player. There is a term that applies – prima donna. Keith

    • The talking heads addressed that very question and they all agreed that it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to an NFL team — which helps me make my point!

  4. Great article, Hugh. You’re right, if you can’t put a dollar value on something, our societies deem it worthless. This discussion of pro sports leads me to my all-time pet peeve. The salaries paid to the stars of our pro teams in every sport are totally obscene. Do we pay millions to people in our society who put their lives on the line to save lives? NO! Do we pay our soldiers who fight for our security and way of life big-time salaries? NO! What about the surgeon who saves your life? NOPE! But we pay the guy who can throw and catch a pigskin ball the millions. We do the same for the movie stars. Why? Because our western societies value their entertainment ABOVE ALL ELSE. This is why I don’t watch sports on TV anymore. Do I miss it? Indeed.

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