Times Change, What’s Right Doesn’t

A picture of Smith and Carlos protesting during the medal ceremony in the 1968 Olympic games.

With the immense popularity of professional sports today, it is no surprise that some athletes use their platform to make statements regarding social and political issues. These statements are oftentimes the issues that impact these athletes the most, from civil rights to political causes, and much more. Athletes are hoping to mitigate problems, and with their high-profile status, they can bring much attention to many issues. Two very similar, notable issues involving 1968 Olympic medal winners and the very recent incident involving St. Louis Rams football players are classic examples of players protesting using the beliefs taught by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Continue reading

Letting Go of the “Michigan Man” Tradition

In recent days, a lot of events have been occurring on the University of Michigan’s athletic campus. Most recently Jim Hackett, the interim athi-res-183178869-head-coach-brady-hoke-michigan-wolverines-calls-out-a_crop_exacthletic director, fired the head football coach Brady Hoke. While this event probably seems irrelevant to a political science class, I think Hackett might be taking an approach John Stuart Mill would’ve approved in the firing of Hoke and the ongoing search for the next football coach. And that approach is changing the tradition of the much discussed “Michigan Man”.

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Youth Sports: Making or Destroying our Childhoods?

When I first came to Michigan as a freshman and saw that the first theme semester was “Sports and the University“, I thought, “Perfect, I love watching sports”. After attending a few theme semester events, however, I learned that there is way more to sports than amazing catches and nasty spin moves. I learned that sports not only affect us physically, but mentally and socially as well. I had always played sports growing up as a kid, but I never realized what the game was doing to me. It was molding the successful individual I am today, whether I knew it or not.

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Will Heininger, part of the Sugar Bowl winning UM football team, suffered from depression during his time at UM

But after all these success stories, I went to a theme semester event that made me think twice about what sports did to our youth. During “Positive Psychology and Sport: What We Know About Athletes from Research and from Themselves”, I listened to story after story of how sports had caused tailspins in peoples’ lives. For example, Will Heininger, an ex-linebacker at UM was sent into deep depression during his time at school. Kally Fayhee, a UM swimmer, suffered with body image problems because of her swimmers’ body, and had major eating disorders. It struck me that maybe we are taking these things a bit over the edge.

I remembered back to the Dunning reading about “Dynamics of Modern Sport”, and how he elaborated on how the amateur ethos was slowly dwindling away in our society. These athletes may be amateurs, but they are treated much bigger than that. One British athlete at the “Positive Psychology” talk, explained the “Power2Podium” program, which calculates your physical attributes, and tells you which sport you are most likely to medal in in the Olympics. This would then encourage parents to have their children specialize in that sport, in hopes of athletic glory. This is a true stripping of individuality and freedom from the young athlete, one many could say is detrimental to their development. At the theme semester event “Sports and Youth Development”, they discussed the several ways in which childhood sports may affect the brain of a child. It was established that if the child felt pressure from their parents about sports, the child would feel increased pressure in life in general. The way parents treat their kids when it comes to sports may at times become destructive to all involved.

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What Should Be Done About Brady Hoke?

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.

Hoke is struggling mightily in his fourth year at the helm, and many are getting impatient

Hoke is struggling mightily in his fourth year at the helm, and many are getting impatient

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Is Gardner a Machiavellian Prince?

Rivalry week is the week in college football that everyone looks forward too. This past weekend we saw two of the greatest rivalries games in college football: Alabama vs. Auburn, and Michigan vs. Ohio State. Rivalries happen because of tradition and past events. For example, the reason the Alabama vs. Auburn game was so talked up was because of the punt return by Auburn in the last seconds of the game against Alabama last season that sent them to the championship game. For Michigan and Ohio State, the tradition goes much farther back. Michigan and Ohio have been known to despise each other on and off the field. Last year Ohio State player Marcus Hall flipped off the Michigan crowd after a fight and “violated the conference’s sportsmanship policy”. This was not forgotten by the Wolverines so they were very ready to get redemption this weekend regardless of our record.

Iowa v Michigan

While the score was tied after the first half, Ohio State sadly pulled away at the end of the game to win 42-28. While we beating the spread was impressive, I think what was more amazing was the sportsmanship that Devin Gardner showed after J.T. Barrett injured his ankle in the fourth quarter. Barrett, the key to Ohio State’s offense, went down with a season ending ankle injury Devin “showed an admirable display of support for rival Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett when Barrett went down with a season-ending ankle injury on Saturday.” I think this shows that there is more to sports than rivalry and competition. Devin could have remembered what Hall did to them the year before and been happy that the opposing teams star was out of the game. Instead I think Devin showed a remarkable sense of camaraderie that could show the world that he is a Machiavellian Prince. Here is a quick video that talks about this incident.

Barrett gets carted off after season ending injury.

Barrett gets carted off after season ending injury.

Although being a prince doesn’t directly relate to the Michigan Wolverines, I think to be a great leader you need to acquire some of the traits. I think Devin, although he did not have his best season, displayed his character during that moment. Machiavelli said that in order to be a prince “you must set unusual examples.” That is exactly what Devin did when he went to console J.T. Barrett. It was very unusual to have a Michigan quarterback during the Ohio State game give kind words to an Ohio State player. Machiavelli also says that it is better to be feared than loved. However, when applied to an athletic captain, I believe you must be both. I know Devin is very well respected by his teammates and coaches and by this remarkable act of sportsmanship, I believe Gardner will never be forgotten as a Michigan quarterback. Even the Ohio State community now loves him and in order to make it through history as a quarterback you must do something extraordinary in the Ohio State rivalry game; what Devin did was truly amazing.

Did you agree that people will remember Devin because of this act of sportsmanship, not just how he performed this season?

The Proletariat Athletes

Michigan Stadium brings in over a hundred thousand spectators every game, generating millions in revenue (from wikimedia.org).

Michigan Stadium brings in over a hundred thousand spectators every game, generating millions in revenue (from wikimedia.org).

Saturday mornings in the fall, millions of people flock to collegiate football stadiums across the United States to watch their favorite teams compete. This is an American tradition which benefits the spectators, players, university staff, and sponsors. Children dream of one day being able to run onto he field in front of a crowd of thousands as student-athletes. These student-athletes, who represent the university in their respective sports, play on a level most could never dream of being on, which generates profit for the university. Here lies a difference between collegiate sports and high school sports, collegiate athletics generate large profits for universities in contrast to menial amounts for high schools. Where does this money go? Well it goes to the university and sponsors, not the players. Applying the viewpoints of Karl Marx, one could argue the athletes are much like the proletariat, while the university and patrons are the bourgeoisie. These two groups would therefore be in a class struggle.  Continue reading

Sports Through Collective Action

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Collective action is commonly defined as, “Any action taken together by a group of people whose goal is to enhance their status and achieve a common objective.”

College sports are often more popular then professional sports in America, and have gained tremendous respect due to the student-athletes participating on them. Student athletes play for their team. In an excerpt from Bo Schembechler’s famous “The Team” speech, he said, “You can go into professional football, you can go anywhere you want to play after you leave here. You will never play for a Team again. You’ll play for a contract. You’ll play for this. You’ll play for that. You’ll play for everything except the team, and think what a great thing it is to be a part of something that is, The Team.” Bo is very right. College athletes play for their school and their team—not money, not a contract, not fame.

Last winter, Student athletes at Northwestern University have taken a bold stance, asking to be represented by a labor union. Northwestern football players, who are pushing to be thought of as “employees” rather than “student-athletes.” This push started with Northwestern quarterback, Kain Colter. He and many of his teammates believe that college athletes deserve and equal voice when it comes to their protections, whether it be physically, academically, or financially. Colter made it very clear that this movement is not due to any particular mistreatment at Northwestern, “We love Northwestern. The school is just playing by the rules of their governing body, the NCAA. We’re interested in trying to help all players — at USC, Stanford, Oklahoma State, everywhere. It’s about protecting them and future generations to come.”

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Walter Hobbes had a rather simple solution to collective action problems. Hobbes believed that you should seek peace, and follow it. In Hobbes’ excerpt about the fool, he said to break the covenant, because there really is no reason not to break the covenant if it’s in your best interest. However, it sometimes does make sense to do those things that are in a covenant. With the current NCAA agreements and rules, student-athletes are often not protected as much as they should be—especially football players, physically. “It’s become clear that relying on the NCAA policymakers won’t work, that they are never going to protect college athletes, and you can see that with their actions over the past decade. Look at their position on concussions.” Ramogi Huma, NCPA president, clearly sees the points being made by the Northwestern football players.

Depending on your view, the NCAA could be seen as the fool, but so could the student-athletes fighting for change. Whatever your view may be, Hobbes believes that both parties of the argument should seek and follow peace. Kain Colter and his teammates are still fighting for athlete representation to improve the conditions that they play under in the NCAA.