Finals Week: Who Will You Be?

It’s the official start of finals week.Your schedule seems like it couldn’t be busier, your classes seem to have assignments popping out of nowhere, and your bed seems like it’s always empty. With this chaotic week beginning, there are many different ways that students handle their stress and time. Some classes offer study sessions (one GSI even held a 12-hour review session this past weekend) where students can work with their peers to help understand the material, while other students prefer the quiet individual studying in their room or a library. Either way, this week is all about time management. When and how you study contributes to your success. So, when my friend texted me the other day asking for my help on one of her assignments, I told her “no” because it didn’t benefit me and my studying. Which got me thinking, “Who would help her in this situation?”

There are two separate options in this example: The friend that helps and the friend that says no, like me. These two different types of people represent the views of two very different philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. One would help the friend in a heartbeat, arguing that everyone’s best interest is the most beneficial way to life in this society, where the other would undoubtedly protect their own self interest, with the belief that every man should live for himself. So, during this upcoming week, who will you be?

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes

Hobbes believed that human beings were sophisticated machines and, as a result, all functions and activities could be explained in purely mechanistic terms. However, he also acknowledged the animal nature within human nature, and believed that everyone acted in their own self-interest. They are content with their success, no matter the state of others around them. He emphasizes in his piece, the Leviathan, that people are focused on “competition of riches, honor command, or other power, inclineth to contention, enmity, and war.” A student who follows the Hobbesean ideals would thrive on other’s failures, therefore not looking out for the friend who asks for help when studying.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau, on the other hand, believed in human kindness and pity. He argued the importance of not having a sovereign within society, and that looking out for everyone’s self-interest is the most beneficial to a successful community. He states in his work, On the Social Contract“At once, in place of the individual person of each contracting party, this act of association produces a moral and collective body composed of as many members as there are voices in the assembly, which receives from this same act its unity, its common self, its life and its will.” If a student supports this idea, then they would’ve responded immediately and offered their help to the friend, rationalizing that if everyone looks out for each other, then the entirety of the class would benefit.

The viewpoints are on different sides of the spectrum, but seem to fit the general uncertainty of how to study for finals. Personally, I think that both strategies can form success, it just depends on the person. Either way, here’s to wishing students the best of luck on their finals, and hoping that, as according to Hobbes, their exams don’t result in a “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” life afterwards.

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Dividing Sports

One of the biggest company to televise sports in the nation.

With over 400,000 NCAA collegiate athletes from all divisions, millions of people running local 5 ks every year, and  the NFL grossing around 9 billion dollars in 2013, it is safe to say we live in a competitive culture. Such a heavy focus on athletics and competition probably brings to many of these contestants minds ” What is fair?”. Where skill level and ability come in as much variety as the people who partake in such events, it can’t be expected that everyone should be measured using the same tape. But debate in recent years have been how to make distinctions between deciding who gets an award for being in a special “league”. Should there be  separation based on age? Race? Gender? Disability? Some claim that even weight should have its own category in such things as 5ks, and earn their own awards.

I believe that sports should not be divided by god given talent alone,  but the ability to progress in a chosen area, to improve oneself and go beyond what believed was possible. For this purpose no one should be segregated by a situation they cannot control directly. Such things as one’s race they are born with. Cultural ties with ethnicity should be something perpetuated and celebrated, when different countries compete together in the same stadium, rink, track, etc, its helps build a global community where races are not just recognized, but differences are championed and accepted.  Debates over

1900’s women in the traditional tennis outfit.

what people “deserve” in sports has been at the forefront of many competitors minds, especially in collegiate athletics. In many cases acknowledgement of differences are a truer form of equality, such as in gender. Most women will agree, that on a whole, competing against men in any given sport would be unfair. Science has shown men on average have a larger muscle mass and cardiovascular capacity, giving a huge advantage in an taxing physical activity. With the enactment of Title IX in 1972 many believe it to be ” women’s lack of interest in competitive sports as a reason why strictly proportional equity in college sports” (Mika, 1) as an excuse to not provide women with proper funding and ability to excel in their chosen sport. Societal norms have stigmatized womens involvement in competition for hundreds of years, and without  media support  have had little to no chance to grow as an institution. For most cases “The history of the politics of women’s sports has been written competently by others.”(Mika,4). Unable to be directly involved in commemorating their own history causes an inability for one to influence the future because the past is not their own. With the old aphorism of “History repeating itself” ringing in many female athletes ears they must push on, hurdling the numerous obstacles blocking their path. Societal blockades to those in a minority are all harmful, but I do believe they most influential on those who are disabled.

World record holder for the wheelchair marathon was set in 2012 at Boston by Ernst Van Dyk in an hour eighteen minutes and twenty-seven seconds.  I am a runner, and being able to move yourself twenty six miles in that amount of time is far from “disabled”. The NYC marathon recently incurred much controversy over its treatment of disabled runners. “the police

routinely but randomly stopped wheelchair participants—sometimes for up to forty minutes—so that elite runners could pass.”(Mika,135)

Ernest Van Dyke, world record holder n the wheelchair marathon.

. These actions undermine the pursuit of excellence these runners are trying to achieve, by putting the race of athletes not in a wheelchair as precedence to those in one. In such a case the question of equality or justice never really arose because of many question surrounding the definitive answer of what is “disabled”. What sports would those with disabilities be allowed to play? Who determines if someone is “disabled enough” to qualify for a specific league? No matter the answer some group will feel ostracized, giving a tricking definition for true equality among athletes. Despite the difficulties, society should strive as a whole to make everyones dreams possible, acutely summarized by the following quote :“ a liberal democratic state ensures that you have a right to pursue a job (external good) but no entitlement to one (internal good)”(Mika,136). Having the ability to have ones excellence recognized, wheelchair or not, is an external good that should be instituted by a democratic state. Every citizen not disabled has the this, so when you deny something to the minority that is available to the majority is undeniable against the fundamentals of this country and needs to be changed.

Millions of hours are put into training, preparing, and honing a skill that can only be demonstrated in the midst of competition. Pushing one’s physical realms to their outer realms and even beyond has been a celebrated pastime even to ancient Greece, and denying someone that privilege, the rush of victory, and bitterness is against the very spirit of competition itself. Athletes should be put into fair competition where hard work and commitment should be the only determining factors, and when emerging a winner, be recognized to its fullest extent.

There is a “Fan” in Team

I loved sports for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been a Michigan fan since before I was even born. My parents met at the University of Michigan and bonded over their love for all things competitive. They got married and had me and my

The University of Michigan is a place that values tradition and pride in their school and their athletics above all else.

The University of Michigan is a place that values tradition and pride in their school and their athletics above all else.

brother and dressed us in “Future Wolverine” onesies. Some of my oldest childhood memories are sitting on my dad’s shoulders at the Big House or climbing up the steps to Chrisler. So when I fulfilled my familial duty (and my lifelong dream) and chose Michigan as my future alma mater, it came to no surprise that I begged my parents for season tickets to everything. For this one magical year, I’ve lived in total bliss, attending everyone men’s football, basketball, or hockey game that fit in my schedule. However, after playing and watching basketball my whole life (and attending Michigan games this season) as well as attending as many hockey games I could, I’ve noticed similarities and differences between the two sports.

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Supporting an Playing

Throughout the last few months in the united states there has been some very serious and saddening events that have taken place. From Ferguson, to Eric Garner there have been many actions resulting in the death of human lives. Regardless of your stance on the situations that have happened there is one over ruling factor that cannot be forgotten and that is that people have lost their lives for no reason. Having these very horrible events happen recently many professional athletes have been using their visibility and “star power” to bring to light that people are should take notice and care about what is going on in the current events of the united states.

Following these events Players from the Saint Louis Rams team have brought attention to these events by putting up their hands making the “Don’t shoot symbol.

Dont shoot(Rams players doing the don’t shoot before their game last week)

This brought a rather large amount notoriety to the Mike Brown and Ferguson case. Say what you may about this action; However, it brought a large amount notoriety to this case. Having said that, this case already had a huge following but when these professional football players did this it “stirred the pot” and in many people’s opinions has brought this case to a higher level of visibility then anticipated.

Another showing of protest with professional athletes is players wearing shirts that simply say “I can’t breathe” these three simple words are very simple but have an unbelivable deep meaning. This shirt is in reference to Eric Garner, who was chocked to death by cops. His last words were “I can’t breathe.” Many people believe that his death was also wrong and unjust and that is why these professional athletes are standing behind Eric and his case. Athletes like Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Reggie Bush have all warn shirts that say these words in warm ups before their games.having said this these athletes by wearing these shirts have brought so much national attention to these cases.n-LEBRON-JAMES-large(Lebron James)

This in my eyes is a great thing. The more people that aware and are educated on a situation will make the outcome a better and more just outcome. I support these athletes standing up for what they believe in, because it not only is the freedom of speech but it also will help make better a situation that is not good at all

A Spectator’s Take

Texas v Michigan

2014 Men’s Basketball Team

Since getting to school, I have attended numerous Michigan football games, a few men’s basketball games, and a women’s basketball game.

I really wanted to see how different the same arena would look when occupied by a women’s versus a men’s team, especially because I wrote my recent essay on the gender discrimination that we see in the sports world. Women athletes have faced discrimination all throughout the past and we definitely see the impacts of that today. The difference between the two basketball teams is a perfect example of the discussions we’ve had in class about the influence of gender roles on sports.

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Miracle and Taylor Branch

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USA winning the 1980 gold medal

On November 13, I went to the showing of the movie Miracle on North Quad. This movie documents the 1980 United States men’s hockey team, winners of the 1980 Winter Olympics. The coach at this time, Herb Brooks, is attributed to a lot of the success of this team by inspiring both physical and mental strength in his players. This movie is a great example of the intense lives of athletes. It demonstrates inspiration, hard work, teamwork, mental toughness and it will inspire all who watch it.

Coach Brooks in the movie Miracle giving a speech to the team

Coach Brooks in the movie Miracle giving a speech to the team. 

Viewers are inspired by the US team because they all came from different places and had been previous rivals with each other. They had to learn to put aside their differences in order to become teammates and play well together. In the movie, there is a well-known scene after a game in which the team lost. Coach Brooks punishes the players for not playing up to their potential by forcing them to skate hours into the night. The players could barely stand up and the coach’s assistants were telling him to stop but Coach Brooks did not let them give up. Brooks was pushing his team to their limits. He knew they needed to be pushed to see what it takes to be a champion. He kept asking the players who they played for, over and over. Finally, one player came forward “I play for the United States of America!” and Coach finally ended the drill. He wanted to get across to the team that they are all playing for a common goal and that there is a necessary mental toughness for this game. Coach Brooks stated from the beginning that he wasn’t there to be anyone’s friend but instead to coach a championship team.

I play for the women’s lacrosse team here at the University of Michigan and our coach constantly reminds us that we are playing for the Block M on our chest. We have to earn the right to wear it because it is such a privilege. When we first stepped onto campus we were given a plain white t-shirt and blue shorts with no Michigan or Block M anywhere on them. We had to earn the right to play for Michigan each day through our workouts. Every day we pushed each other to be better. The team becomes your second family. That is what Coach Brooks of the USA Hockey Team did as he made them to skate for hours. I can relate to this feeling because our conditioning sessions feel impossible but afterwards we know we accomplished so much. In order to become champions, you must push yourself to your limits with your team at your side, giving you great motivation, just like the USA Hockey team. If you do not push yourself to your limits, you won’t get better or see results.

Taylor Branch giving a talk about the NCAA

Taylor Branch giving a talk about the NCAA

On November 14, I was fortunate enough to go to Taylor Branch’s talk about athletes and how the NCAA affects them. Taylor Branch is a huge advocate for the rights of student athletes everywhere. He is an author and a speaker, and has spoken to many audiences and has written and co-written many books. He has written many pieces on sports, particularly the effect of the NCAA and the life of athletes. Right now, he best known for his pieceThe Shame of College Sports” published in the October 2011 issue of The Atlantic. This article talks about the NCAA and their strict rules and regulations it has on student athletes and universities. This article was interesting for me because he argues that all the scandals in the media surrounding college athletes cheating are not what we should be focused on. Instead, “the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, wherein student-athletes generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves”. He compares overworked employees in the workplace to overworked collegiate athletes, saying it is unjust for one to be paid and not the other. It is interesting how in the workplace it is exploitation for an employee to not be paid for the success and hard work they’ve done. However, for a student athlete it is exploitation if they are paid or compensated in any way for the long hours, tough workouts, revenue brought to the university, and success they have while at the university.

I agree with some of what Branch says during this talk and I question whether collegiate athletes would push themselves harder if they were getting paid. However, I also believe that the NCAA put these rules in place to make sure that young athletes first receive an education before they decide to perform their sports professionally. Branch talked about the scandal at UNC. The UNC Athletic department created classes for student athletes that didn’t even physically meet. These classes were considered ‘fake’ but the students were still awarded the credits needed to be eligible and to graduate. UNC purposely made these classes to allow student athletes to focus on their sport, however this obviously took away the educational experience. On this note, a big point of conflict that Branch highlighted during his talk was that if student athletes got money, the “student first” would be lost. The NCAA wants student athletes to put the student first and get the education needed for their life after college. Again, as a student athlete I know the pressure that is put on athletes to perform at their best. Practices and workouts are very demanding. It is hard to sit through class and not worry about the excruciating workout that you next. It is also challenging to keep focus in an 8:30am class after a 7am morning lift. Despite not being paid for playing lacrosse at Michigan, being a student athlete has helped me learn to prioritize my time, and I believe I push myself to the fullest everyday, with the help of my teammates and coaches.