Monday, June 25, 2012

The Show Must Go On

The playgrounds of America are littered with guys who thought they'd be the next Michael Jordan or Kobe (Beef) Bryant, or who think they will be the next LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Derrick Rose.    This is not about them.

Nor is it about Title IX, enacted into law 40 years ago last Saturday, celebrated by Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Mike Jensen, who enthusiastically notes "Under the threat of legal action, high schools and colleges have been forced to acknowledge that sports aren't just for men and the most jockish women. Girls' teams fill to capacity, same as the boys'."

More significantly, Jensen learned

While some men's college sports have been dropped as colleges scramble to make budgets, Fromson said, one study indicated that between 1988 and 2011 more men's sports have been added than dropped, with a "net gain of 1,000 men."

As the chart immediately below indicates, college tuition and fees rose 83 percent from 1997 to 2007. In 2011, tuition at the average four-year public university rose 8.3%, which was more than double the inflation rate of 3.6% between July 2010 and July 2011.     Virtually every state has cut its support for higher education.     And sports programs for both men and women spring up everywhere.

An obsession with athletics is only one of the many factors contributing to the spiraling cost of higher education.    But higher costs and the shattered dreams of many young Americans- especially urban blacks who have trusted their extraordinary athletic ability rather than scholastic potential- are not the only effects of the holy grail of sports.   In a piece appearing in Newsweek/The Daily Beast,  Buss Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, argued that there is a lot of blame to go around for the blind eye turned toward the sexually perverted, criminal acts perpetrated by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.     He turned first toward  the press conference featuring Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, then described the impact of a culture infesting PSU (picture below  from The Daily Beast, though a part of another post).    While not the focus of the essay, the culture infecting Penn State University plagues colleges throughout the land.   Bissinger:

Kelly should have referred to the culpability of Penn State. She should have used the moment, with millions watching, to say what happens when an institution, presumably dedicated to teaching students moral responsibility, doesn’t do anything except ignore and obfuscate when the signs are everywhere that a sexual predator is lurking with impunity, so brazen he often uses the Penn State football locker room as his torture chamber. Yes, it was Jerry Sandusky who committed the crimes. Yes, he acted alone. But any Penn State alum who hasn’t figured out that he was aided and abetted by their alma mater is only furthering the disgrace.

Kelly should have spoken with substance and anger and indignation Friday night. As a public servant, she should be helping to break Penn State of the football culture that ruled the school and made its own rules. In doing so, she would help break the football culture that rules too many schools.

But you could feel the shift Friday night, the itchy feet of the media moving on to the next sensation now that Jerry Sandusky is on his way out, all but forgotten come September, when the Nittany Lions play their home opener against Ohio University and 106,572 fans, after a minute of silence to the great god of JoePa, rise in a raucous roar as the boys take the field.

Are you ready for some football?

Always in America.


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