When it comes down to it, people love to see David defeat Goliath. There is a certain aspect of excitement that comes with the underdog knocking off the unbeatable. People like to see things that aren’t supposed to be done happen. Especially when it comes to sporting events, people become thrilled when the favored team gets taken down. A specific example would include the NCAA college basketball tournament, one of the most popular sporting events in the country that feeds off of the excitement of potential upsets. In recent times, teams such as George Mason, VCU, and Butler have taken the country by storm and made headlines with their runs.
With an all-time record of 910-321-36 (.732), Michigan has the most wins out of any program in the history of college football. Seeing that, it is not difficult to imagine that Michigan fans are incredibly frustrated with the lack-luster performance put forth by the team this year. A 5-7 record and a season ended before the bowls start is a disappointment at any program throughout the country, let alone at, historically, one of the best in the nation.
Generally speaking, sports have been categorized by both gender and ability. There are separate divisions for men and women in just about every sport imaginable, and athletes are obviously separated by ability – i.e. professional leagues compared to minor leagues and semi-professional leagues. However, there are some fine lines when it comes to defining sports and their categories. In some instances, boundaries are not quite as set as they might have seemed to be. An example would be that of the dilemma of the 1999 New York City Marathon discussed in Mika LaVaque-Manty’s The Playing Fields of Eton. Another example would be that of Caster Semenya, a female athlete who had her gender called into question.
Like just about everything in life, sports are an ever-changing entity. Today’s games, while similar to their original forms, are quite different than they were some time ago. Hockey and basketball are no exceptions to these changes. For example, hockey very recently incorporated new penalties into the game, and basketball was once so different that the games was once played without a three-point line. Also, these sports are continually changing now – evidenced by the NHL’s ongoing debate about the role of fighting within the sport.
I was recently able to get a glimpse at today’s versions of hockey and basketball when I attended games of the Michigan hockey and basketball teams, respectively. While the games are quite similar to how they were when they first originated, obviously there are some differences in the way that they are played now. This idea of changing sports is a central idea in Marc Tracy’s article “NFL Rules Changes: When Is Football No Longer Football?” In his article, Tracy comments on how current rule changes and proposed rule changes are taking away from the game that football once was. He ponders at what point football is no longer football. Is the elimination of kickoff returns all it takes to completely change the game? The elimination of tackling?
While the actual games and wins-loss records of teams are the actual determinant of how the teams do, usually just having standings are not enough for people. It can be seen quite obviously in the way that college sports release polls of the top 25 teams as decided upon by a committee of higher ups or a collection of coaches. Rankings can even be seen in professional sports from reporters’ power rankings, such as the one Peter King writes in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column, or even in daily debates of which team would win a hypothetical game by word of mouth. The way that people obsess with rankings relates to how in Homer’s Iliad contestants in the funeral games take great measures to assure their rightful rank at the end of the competition. Also in relation is how Tejada-Flores ranks the difficulties of separate climbing events in his piece “Games Climbers Play.”
The question of whether or not college athletes should be paid has been a much-disputed one. There are so many aspects to this question that really it’s difficult to give a true yes or no answer. The question of payment of student athletes raises countless more questions in and of itself: how might institutions go about paying athletes? Do athletes really need payment if they are going to school on scholarship? How might one be able to put a monetary value on an athlete? These are only a few examples of things to be looked at when asking the original question. While I don’t have all the answers with me today, what I do have is a proposition, one based strongly off of Charles B. Pierce’s “Dispatches from the NCAA’s Deathbed,” as to what can and should be done about the current predicament. In my opinion, college athletes should be paid, but the payment they receive should come from outside sources rather than the academic institution they represent. In his article, Pierce looks at the battle between the NCAA and student athletes as a question of personhood, and he, as well as I, see the current state of the NCAA as one in which student athletes are treated quite unfairly.