Student Athletes

We arrived home just a minute prior to 5 pm last Saturday. I watched portions of both the USC and UCLA games that evening. On Sunday I also watched portions of several football games, along with some soccer.

While watching the Sunday NFL games, I again noted that sometimes the players introduced themselves and included the names of their universities (although sometimes they give their high schools or their college football teams–Miami Hurricanes, for example). Once I even watched a player give the name of his elementary school.

Something is missing: these players–former student-athletes–never give either their year of graduation nor the name of the degree they earned at their university/college. They seem to be proud to announce that they were athletes but not that they were students.

Are they not proud of their academic achievements as well as their athletic prowess? After all, they spent years attending classes, studying, taking exams and writing essays. Or did they?

Could it be that the term student-athlete, at least as applied to major college/university money-sport athletes (football and basketball), is just a sham?

Most of these schools are tax supported, public institutions. Our tax dollars help support these players, their scholarships, coaches and teams. Is our money really being used to educate them or is it being used to support non-student athletes in a minor league system reminiscent of that of Major League Baseball but at public expense?

I wonder if you have come to the same conclusion that I have? Hmmmm . . . . .

Hey! How about when the players introduce themselves on national television, we have them also give the year of their graduation and the degree(s) they earned? We could also have it printed in the newspapers next to the rosters in the Sports sections and in the programs sold at the stadiums. They could also be prominently displayed on the teams’ websites. Great publicity for the universities and colleges.

Or is it? Perhaps, it is all just a sham, a self-delusion we perpetrate on ourselves as a society hungry for entertainment, bread and circuses.


On another note.

Last week a high school football player died after playing in his weekly game–football is not just a contact sport. Football, like ice hockey, is a collision sport. People get hit–hard. There are concussions, sprains, broken bones, torn ligaments and other injuries in every game. Some of these injuries are career ending, and others, like those suffered by Jim Otto, make for a painful and debilitating retirement.

I believe I have a partial solution to the problem. It may seem nonsensical, but I believe that it could cut down the severity of the injuries by reducing the severity of the collisions between players.

Let’s get rid of helmets. Right off, it’s going to get rid of spearing. Are these players really going to hit each other as hard as they do with no protective headgear.

For younger players, let’s get rid of pro football style uniforms, padding and armor and go back to flag football for all those too young to really understand the long-term (as well as short-term) dangers they face. Let’s not allow parents and coaches to fulfill their own fantasies by having five-year-olds play like professionals (and get goaded and cursed into NFL style violence).

If you don’t agree with the above paragraph, how about going and watching (and listening to) some of the practices, as well as the games these young kids play. I watched enough of them at Kelly Stadium in Orange, CA in the hours before working OUSD high school games as public address announcer and message board operator for twenty-five years.

Feel free to disagree with any, or all, of the above; you won’t hurt my feelings. But, if you would, please, read, watch and listen to the stories in our media about injuries suffered by those who play this violent sport. It is one thing for an adult to make a decision to play this game and quite another for a child to do so. Pleasing a parent or emulating a hero are powerful draws for a five-year-old or a teenager.

The following article appeared in the Minneapolis StarTribune on September 10, 2015, written by Patrick Reusse.

Is football’s expiration date closer than you think?