Friday, September 2, 2011

Excellent journalism

Since I'm always harping on bad journalism, I try my best to also salute good journalism when I see it. Enter Spencer Hall from the Every Day Should Be Saturday blog, with one of the most level-headed views on collegiate football that I've ever read.

I, like many others, spend a lot of time harping on what's wrong with college sports, which frankly isn't hard to notice. It's not exactly a well-kept secret that the NCAA is largely built on a lie of "amateurism", and Hall asks so what? Does it make watching college football any less enjoyable, or does it add anything valuable to the experience to recognize that it's at least in part a fraud? If anything, it cheapens it. But I'll step away here and leave the rest to Spencer. I'll excerpt it in part, but I highly suggest you take the time to read the whole thing. I found it to be somewhat uplifting in a strange, counter-intuitive way.
People like to say this is a fraud. They like to say it a lot. It's easy, because there is a fine, solid skein of truth to it. The world is filled with misdirected companies, banana stands that took a wrong turn, countries demarcated with borders drawn by tipsy colonials thousands of miles away. The entire state of Florida is a real estate scam no one ever bothered to stop. Georgia was and possibly still is a debtor's colony. The United States' largest and most populous state sits between wildfires and a fault line capable of cracking the state's inhabitable land into its own island in a matter of hours. Large tracts of the Western United States came from Mexico's attic. We hope they don't want it back any time soon.
There are people--con artists, visionaries, frauds, hucksters, geniuses, the mad, the clueless and monied--who leave in their wake elaborate, ambitious fakes. You call the aftermath "home," or your town, or your nation. A large chunk of your experience as a person involves elements created with the worst of intentions: fraud, the peculiar delusions of power, or desperate tax evasion writ large on the landscape in the form of homes, shops, and a long flight from the responsibilities of abandoned lives.
Sometimes they leave you with a state. Sometimes they leave you with a sport.
He continues:
There is no one in charge in college football. There likely never will be. One lie leading to another forms the bridge the present takes to the future, and your steps don't lie: it feels as solid as truth, and holds up for far longer in some cases.
The editing matters so much here. You can say the sport is rife with filth, and you would be right. The negligent policemen of the sport strike intermittently at thieves. One side makes up the law as they go while the other politiely ignores it. Bowl games grease the palms of venal public officials. Television networks buy off longtime allies and reconstruct the map as they fit, as drunken in their excesses as the mustachioed cartographers of any careless empire. Players steal what they can when they can. Coaches do the same, but to much greater effect.
We know this. This is not news. Please stop acting like it is. That's very ingenious that in the bombed-out church of football, you have figured out that there is no God, and someone is running out the door with the coffers. The only intrigue is in the variation, not in the repeated exaggerated reminders that this is a sport of charlatans, sweathouse labor conditions, and a thousand dodges behind the shield of amateurism.
It's somewhat strange to be (indirectly) called out in this manner, and yet by the end of Hall's article I'm left feeling oddly liberated. That's the true genius of Hall's piece--that it finds hope in desolation, and entertainment amid corruption.

Yes, college sports are largely built on fraud, and we all ultimately know this. We similarly all knew that Mark McGwire was on performance-enhancing drugs as he chased Roger Maris' record, but we really didn't care. It wasn't the point. In a world full of bad news, sports can always be an escape--we need them to be an escape. We don't want or celebrate anyone pulling back the curtain to show us that it, too, is a fraud. Most of us would rather go along enjoying the lie, and as a result we can either join the lie or just look elsewhere for our entertainment and escapes.

Excellent writing, Spencer. Go 'Hoos.

[Every Day Should Be Saturday]  
(h/t Deadspin)

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