Author: Liz Pinnie
Though March is now behind us, the Madness is not quite over yet. This Saturday, the Final Four will face off to see who will go to the finals, and Liz Pinnie will find out if she wins her NCAA pool (it’s looking good people).
Now, I’m all for a little casual March Madness betting. However, this year my pure enjoyment was a bit spoiled by a discussion we had in my “Diversity in Higher Education” Class (hey, GSE!). Last week we discussed the ins and outs of Division One Athletics, and I began to realize what a twisted world they have become.
Articles that I read for class reinforce my belief that being an athlete in the U.S. has become an all or nothing proposition. The focus for Division One Athletes, like the ones you are watching on TV during March Madness, becomes their sport. If they don’t perform, they don’t play. If they don’t play, they will often lose their scholarship. This includes athletes who get injured while playing their sport. Ever hear of Kevin Ware? What will happen to him now that he is unable to play? Forbes wrote an interesting article about this here.
In addition to losing financial support, there is a strong chance that these athletes will lose their sense of self- because their self has been defined by their sport, which they dedicated their lives to.
In collegiate athletics, life becomes a sport, which, for 98% of individuals involved will end when they (hopefully) graduate with a degree.
In thinking about my personal experiences and watching players bring in million dollars’ worth of revenues for their schools during March Madness, it reinforces my belief in two things: One, both parents and their children pursuing the very American dream of playing collegiate athletics need to consider to what end are they participating in the game, because they can be forced from it at any moment. And two- we need to re-evaluate the experiences of student athletes, and the financial structure that supports (or doesn’t support) them, while they make money for their schools.
As we in the office take in games and root for a victor (and I prepare to win money for my selections), I think it’s important to start thinking about the actual players, and not just the game. While Temple’s Khalif Wyatt might make the pros (if he continues to perform and stays healthy), what happens to his teammates? I hope that they have found time to study and are on track to graduate, because now that March Madness is over for them, and their time at school is done, they will need a backup plan.
So there you have it- a bit of a downer, but certainly some food for thought. I’ll leave you with a portion of Henry Van Arsdale Porter’s poem* that gave birth to the phrase “March Madness”. It harkens to a time when the game was a game. Maybe we should work on getting back to that place.
The gym lights gleam like a beacon beam
And a million motors hum
In a good will flight on a Friday night;
For basketball beckons, “Come!”
A sharp-shooting mite is king tonight.
The Madness of March is running.
The winged feet fly, the ball sails high
And field goal hunters are gunning.
With war nerves tense, the final defense
Is the courage, strength and will
In a million lives where freedom thrives
And liberty lingers still.
Now eagles fly and heroes die
Beneath some foreign arch
Let their sons tread where hate is dead
In a happy Madness of March.