Sunday, November 8, 2015

football called to account

Since what I know about college football could fit on the head of a pin and leave room for myriad angels besides, it was quite by chance that I tuned in and stayed glued yesterday to the game between Arkansas and Ole Miss. I have no clue as to what the colleges are called in civilian speak or where specifically they are located ("Confederacy" sidled through my mind), but the game was a tit-for-tat display of expertise on both sides of the ball. And there was some weird shit thrown in for good measure. Arkansas won, 53-52. If there seemed to me to be a disproportionate number of white players on the field (at least when compared to my occasional watching of professional games), it didn't change the entertainment munchies I chowed down on.

Besides the lullaby wonders of the game, it was also clear how magnificent and rich the whole affair was. The stadium was grand, the bands twinkled in the sun, the fans were enthusiastic and the accouterments of the players left me doing a little idle math ... how much had all this cost; what made it worth putting on the extended stage that television is? Do the math -- football is big-bucks territory.

Well d'oh ... someone's making a buck off  it. But I didn't care about that as I watched the game, which held me in thrall. Such was my ignoramous-ity that on occasion I had to back up to figure out which team was which. I wanted a name on which to pin the praise or blame that caromed around in my mind. Lord, it was a fun game!

But then it was over and the gladiators left the field that Mammon had made possible. Thanks Mammon ... that was fun. If, as I believe I've read, college football coaches are universally the highest-paid employees of the institutions they serve, well ... I could believe it.

And then, as if to re-tint the glasses I had been wearing, there came this story today:
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office.
The statement from the athletes of color was tweeted out Saturday by several members of the football team, including starting running back Russell Hansbrough.
The move aligns the team with campus groups who have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is in the sixth day of a hunger strike to call attention to the issue.
 I have no sense of the impact such a demonstration is likely to have but I do think that if the stopcock of financing that accrues to any institution with a football team is slowed or shut off, well that is likely to get the undivided attention of administrators who are themselves paid big bucks to bring money TO the institution, not swat it away with anything as distracting as principles.

Without knowing the particulars of the football players' action, I have a sense that they have done something both courageous and right. I suspect the action will harm them ... and that takes balls.

Football players work very hard. They are often treated to a preferential berth that a physics genius would drool for. Some, if not all, have their eye on a professional career in football ... and cutting off the stage on which to display their prowess may have some suicidal elements in it. Frankly, I think their action is likely to have more impact than all the heart-felt columns about racism can or will.

Football is god ... just like Mammon. The ho-hum greeting accorded to the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man or woman recedes further into the shade when the bright lights of football are threatened.

Is racism important? Sure it is.

But is football important? You can bet your black ass on it!

1 comment:

  1. As i understand it, it might have an effect, but 32 out of the 140+ members of the team is not huge. And the athletic director can tell the coach to take away their scholarships and make an NFL career evaporate. Their demands strike me as reasonable, dating back to 1969, things that should be collegiate infrastructure. But racism is far from over, and this protest is in it's infancy. This will either be the last story on the subject, or the first of many.