The cliché “dumb jock” is at least as old as, say, “mad scientist” or “crooked politician”. Not always the case, but often enough to be accepted as valid.
A long-standing trope for a participant in varsity sport is “student-athlete,” a connected hyphen so that no one misses the point, with the emphasis on “student”, only secondarily on “athlete”. While the two may be true, it is most likely only one.
I was never identified as a “student journalist”, although my wife was a “student teacher” without the hyphen and only for a quarter. And neither of us was a brand whose concerns required the attention of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
None of us, alone or together, were able to muster a crowd of thousands to cheer us on after we were led into our classrooms by a marching band and tumbling cheerleaders, none of whom were ‘students’. gymnasts ”nor“ student-tuba-istes ”(double hyphen here) we almost all pay full price and buy our own books.
Asked about the importance of college football, Alabama icon Bear Bryant intoned, “It’s a little hard to rally to a math class.”
There was this Oklahoma college president asking for funds from his state legislature who promised he would build a college that the football team could be proud of.
So, yes, the academic and sporting priorities have always been a bit far-fetched. In my case, an admission. I was offered a scholarship to Ohio University, the oldest university in the Northwest Territories, a very good institution, and I was successful because Ohio State had a better team. of football. I paid off student loans for a decade.
If that sounds like a prelude to a view on whether athletic people, stupid or smart, should be allowed to sell their used images, autographs or athletic socks, yes it is. And, no, they shouldn’t.
The deal is done. In exchange for education, tuition, room, board, tutors, and peripheral fame, usefully provided by the sports department’s advertising machines, a varsity athlete is not really invited to be a student but must claim to be an amateur. We all know it’s a sham, but there is comfort in deception.
We could believe that they were playing for us, the alumni, the other students, the greater glory of the university. Faded away. It’s all gone now. Each jock for himself, or herself. Chaos is coming.
The NCAA has been the policymaker and enforcer of the rules that have kept the lie alive, earning a lot of money for itself, conferences, and schools from the names, pictures, and likenesses of the athletes. Even though the power of the NCAA was diluted by court rulings, it was looking to make even more money by expanding its football playoffs to 12 teams.
The college sports system has long been accused of being archaic, run down, and exploitative, and of course it’s all of those things. What it is now, we will see. The new rules are still being written and I see people crappy and greedy than the NCAA rushing to break them.
One of my academic jobs was to hand out books to “grant” students (a double-dash designation of scholarship athletes at the time) at the start of each term. They got the new books, the ones with some pages still stuck together uncut. They were due to return the books at the end of the term and those pages still weren’t cut. Athletes, they were just students, not under my supervision.
Back in the days when it mattered, if it ever did, Mike Ditka’s standard insult to writers – me, in particular – was “You’re not Hemingway.” An obvious answer would be, “And you are not Lombardi.” But, in my case, I wished to be known as “You’re no Thurber”, a still unattainable aspiration.
James Thurber was, and still is, what I wanted to be, and it was because of the first article I read by my colleague Buckeye. It was a star tackle that was to remain eligible for a critical game against Illinois by passing an economics test. He had to name a means of transport.
No matter how many clues the professor left, the tackle couldn’t find an answer. The other students, realizing how vital he was to the team’s chances, started making sounds, like “choo choo” and “chug chug”. Finally, the exasperated professor asked, “How did you get here?” “By train,” said the tackle.
Thurber was a student in 1913. Simpler times.