Men’s Basketball v. Women’s Gymnastics

Last week, I was able to attend the men’s basketball game against the Syracuse Orange. Throughout the entire game, the two teams were basically neck in neck and it was anyone’s game. Vibrant electricity was pulsing through the crowd and the cheering for the Wolverines was making the ground quake; specifically, the noise from the student section stood out immensely. The student cheering section for men’s basketball games in the Chrisler Arena is commonly known as the “maize rage.” Through the encouragement of the maize rage, with less than a minute remaining, Michigan’s Spike Albrecht managed to break the tie by scoring a 3-pointer, thus putting the Wolverines back in the lead. The maize rage went crazy in wild cheers and song supporting their team. It was truly an incredible feeling to be apart of. Just as Giamatti writes in his Take Time for Paradise, I can attest that “The spectator, seeing something he had only imagined, or, more astonishingly, had not yet or would have never imagined possible, because the precise random moments had never before come together in this form to challenge the players, is privy to the realized act of imagination an assents, is mastered, and in that instant, bettered.” The ability to be apart of the maize rage was something that allowed for a bond to form not just among the spectators, but also between the spectators and the team. Through our cheering on the team, we formed a bond with them that motivated them to push themselves harder and eventually resulting in a Wolverine victory. Continue reading

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.

Activism From Professional Athletes

Where Are the Jocks for Justice” by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier took a look into Adonal Foyle’s battle to change the current political system. When most athletes were spending money to rebuild playgrounds or schools, or visiting sick children in the hospital, Foyle was running a grassroots group called Democracy Matters. Democracy Matters wanted to educate children about politics, push them to vote, and bring pressure to change the current political system. Foyle clearly wanted to make a change in society and earned a lot of praise for his battle against the political system. However, not all professional athletes have been given the same praise. Continue reading

Consequences of Actions from Professional Athletes

Where Are the Jocks for Justice” by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier took a look into Adonal Foyle’s battle to change the current political system. When most athletes were spending money to rebuild playgrounds or schools, or visiting sick children in the hospital, Foyle was running a grassroots group called Democracy Matters. Democracy Matters wanted to educate children about politics, push them to vote, and bring pressure to change the current political system. Foyle clearly wanted to make a change in society and earned a lot of praise for his battle against the political system. However, not all professional athletes have been given the same praise. Continue reading

Are Sports Political?

We have all heard someone say it at one point or another. Sometimes, it’s when their kid doesn’t get any playing time, and the parents want something to blame. Sometimes, it’s when a call is made by a referee that is highly challenged and makes half of the gym rage with anger. Sometimes, it’s true. “Sports are political.”

Sports have a history of being linked with politics, and political gestures. Max Weber wrote “Politics as a Vocation” during the after effects of WWI on Germany and the Bymar Republic. At this time, Germany was experimenting with democratic sorts of governments, whether it be living for the government, or living from the government. Merriam-Webster defines “vocation” as a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action. Behind all political decisions is the possibility of force. So, we come across a question. What makes a good politician? Well, often three things are looked at:

  1. Judgement – This is not sterile excitement (rather, excited about an issue). It is commitment.
  2. Passion  – This is not sterile excitement (means-ends rationality). It is the ability to be strategic.
  3. Responsibility – This has no good intentions. There is concern for the future and what comes next.

With a good politician comes political ethics. First of all, the ethics of conviction (what Weber does not want in a politician). These are absolute and act-oriented (ex. “under no circumstances will I do…”). On the other hand, however, are the ethics of responsibility (what Weber wants  in a politician). This focuses on being flexible and future-oriented.

Many athletes have learned to us their athletic platform to take political stances. For example, NFL quarterback Tim Tebow uses his platform to express his faith and love for God. While he was a collegiate football quarterback, he would paint bible verses on his face. When he reached the NFL, however, they did not give him this freedom.

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In an article called All Sports Is Political:The Dave Zirin Interview, Dave Zirin (one of the most famous sports writers in the world of sports) spoke on sports and politics. His views on the mix of the two are very different than most sportswriters. “I think there are many cases where owners and head coaches make it clear that politics are divisive in the locker room, it undermines the idea of team, and that sports and politics should not mix. Also, in much of the mainstream sports media, the message is often contradictory. [The media] tend to decry the modern athlete who just says “We play one game at a time,” because that athlete doesn’t give them good copy, but they’re also the first to jump on an athlete if they dare say anything political or out of the mainstream. Now not every sportswriter does this by any stretch, but that is the general overriding ethos.”

Sports are more often than not related to politics, whether it is something Weber would agree with or not.

Athlete and Coach Contract?

What good are contracts for? What relationships use contracts? Are contracts really beneficial in the long run?

A coach will always expect a lot out of his athletes

A coach will always expect a lot out of his athletes

Contracts are great for all sorts of things. Many use them for business relationships, landlord and tenant relationships, employer and employee relationships, teacher and student relationships, and so on.

On the other hand, there are plenty of relationships that do not use contracts. Some of these include family relationships, friendships, and dating/romantic/marriage relationships.

In my life, one of the most important relationships that I have is with my coach. The relationship between an athlete and a coach is very special. There are actually many similarities to an employer and employee relationship. While my coach “owns” me in some sense, I work for him to the best of my ability to bring success to my team (or company, in the comparison). Having a contract between a employer and an employee is very important, because as an employer, you need to know that your employee will work their tail off at all times, will be trustworthy, respectful, and responsible.

Another relationship that can be compared with a coach and an athlete is a family relationship. In our gym, our coaches are almost seen as parental figures in our life. Being away on our own, we each (my teammates and I) lack the guidance that our parents once gave us. This, however, is nothing new to the college student. College is a time to find out who you truly are and make decisions for yourself. But, with the extra responsibilities as a student-athlete, it has made all the difference to have them supporting us each and every day. The relationship between family members normally does not have a contract—only in cases such as divorce or adoption, perhaps.

So where exactly does the relationship between an athlete and their coach fall? Should there be a contract, similar to the one in an employer/employee relationship? Or would a contract be unnecessary, like in any family relationship?

While these are all good questions, I turned to the experts on social contracts. Others (Hobbes, Locke) have looked at social contracts and exposed their findings/opinions, but I specifically looked at Jean Jacques Rousseau’s State of Nature and Critique of Civilization.

Rousseau

Rousseau

His anthropological theory states that in the state of nature, we are born free and people were by themselves—we were happy, not rational. Rousseau made it clear that once we started thinking, everything will begin to go to hell if we start comparing to one another, and if we are dependent on others’ opinions. Out of that, the part that stuck out most to me regarding the athlete/coach relationship was being dependent on others’ opinions. As an athlete, if I am dependent on my coaches’ opinion, I will never be satisfied. They will always want and expect more, because they can see the potential that I can’t.

This is why I believe that the coach/athlete relationship should remain without a contract.

Thinking about your life, what relationships would you like to use a contract for?

Is It Still Golf?

Marc Tracy wrote the article, “NFL Rules Changes: When Is Football No Longer Football?” on August 2, 2013 for the New Republic. Tracy focused on the new rules adopted by the Competition Committee of the NFL in 2013. In order for football to be safer for players, the committee discontinued kick-offs at the Pro-Bowl, the tuck rule, and players lowering their helmet. Continue reading

What Defines Family?

What truly makes something what it is? Is there a specific right answer for what definite characteristic makes an apple an apple or a computer a computer? In the article by Marc Tracy, “NFL Rule Changes: When is football no longer football?” he asks this question as well. Tracy discusses the recent rule changes involving the Pro-Bowl and how they affect the future of the American national sport.

Football Kick Off

Tracy questions whether the elimination of kick offs and new regulations regarding helmets pose to undermine the sport of Football in its entirety. After exploring defining characteristics, he ends his point by writing, the “NFL needs to decide what Football is”: its rules, its traditions, and its future. What Tracy hints at is called a constitutive rule, or a regulation that helps makes something what it is, that when broken, says you are no longer engaged in that activity.

Continue reading

In the Hands of the NFL

After reading the article NFL Rules Changes: When is Football No Longer Football?, I now question whether football will lose its power of becoming a paradise for the players and the spectators. The National Football League is starting to make significant changes in the interest of safety that will start to change the game in a large way. For starters, they decided to ban ball-carriers from lowering their helmets into oncoming defenders in an attempt to break free of the tackle. Other major changes include the elimination of the “Tuck Rule” and no more kick-offs in the Pro Bowl. In addition, they have even taken tackling out of preseason camps. All of these changes are designed to make the game safer for the players. Football is a very dangerous sport because you are making contact with your opponent at full speed with great force. However, I wonder whether or not the game will remain the same after all of these modifications.

A hard hit

A dangerously hard hit

In Giamatti’s Take Time for Paradise, he states, “In that moment of vision, of sensation compounded of sight and inside, everyone – participant and spectator – is centered” (24). The players and spectators are consumed by the world of the game. They are not focused on anything else but the competition in front of them. Giamatti explains that people play sports because they want to achieve a paradise that we have lost. This paradise is considered better than our actual lives. If many changes occur in the sport of football, will this paradise be lost?

With these changes, I believe the game would not be the same, as there would be “no more dramatic returns for touchdowns. No more advantage or disadvantage to be won or lost by improving field position. No more exciting, surprising, game-changing onside kicks.” (Tracy). These are all important aspects of the game because they keep the audience and the players guessing who will win the game. The surprises within the games keep the players going hard throughout the entire game, fighting for the win. I also agree with Marc Tracy that football would not be football without tackling.

Not only would the game change for the players, as they would have to learn new rules, but also this would change the intensity for the spectators. The loss of these aspects of the game would definitely cause the spectators and players to lose the paradise that was once created by football. As stated by Giamatti, “the spectator, seeing something he has only imagined, or, more astonishingly, had not yet or would never have imagined possible, because the precise random moments had never before come together in this form to challenge the players” (27). This means that the spectator goes to football games in order to experience something they cannot on their own.

A packed Giants stadium, full of fans awaiting the start of an intense game.

A packed Giants stadium, full of fans awaiting the start of an intense game.

The NFL wants to keep the sport of football as safe as possible but when do they draw the line before ruining the sport completely? Football will never be completely safe because then it just would not be football anymore. As stated in the article, “would football without kick-offs still be football?” (Tracy). “the National Football League needs to figure out what football is”. They have the ability to uphold the tradition of the game or to create a completely new one, it’s all in their hands.

Giamatti, A. Bartlett. 1989. Take time for paradise: Americans and their games. New York: Summit Books.

Tracy, Marc. “NFL Rules Changes: When Is Football No Longer Football?” New Republic. N.p., 2 Aug. 2013. Web.

The Fall of Dave Brandon

The University of Michigan has a prestigious reputation.  The fact that Michigan is known for its top ranked academics and athletics puts the university under an immense amount of pressure.  Michigan claims to be the “Best of the West” in their fight song, setting the school’s standards extremely high.  The relentless pressure that is put on the university affects not only the students but the administration as well.  Michigan’s athletic director, Dave Brandon, was recently forced to resign from his position.  In chapter 13 of the Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes, states, “…from this diffidence of one another, there is no way for any man to secure himself, so reasonable, as anticipation; that is, by force, or wiles, to master the persons of all men he can, so long, till he sees no other power great enough to endanger him” (Hobbes 2). This quote shows that Dave Brandon took this job knowing how difficult it would be and that his job was at stake everyday. Hobbes expresses that no security is possible and life is full of horror. The athletic director position at the University of Michigan is incomparable to any other and Dave Brandon understood that when he took the job; he knew how difficult the job was and what was at stake every single day.  The Michigan department program has been known for its competitiveness and high expectations.  Although Dave Brandon lost his position because of critics who complained that as the Michigan athletic director he did not uphold the expectations of the program, as a student athlete, I can vouch for Dave Brandon, by saying that he bettered this University every single day that he stepped into office.

The student body has ridiculed Dave Brandon because of his business decisions to raise ticket prices and expand and renovate the athletic facilities around south campus.  It is unfortunate that the opinion of Dave Brandon is so negative with the student population, but the athletes have had the chance to meet Mr. Brandon and have experienced the positive changes he has made for the athlete population. The student body had such a negative outlook on Dave Brandon that they took great lengths to attempt to get him fired.  A few actions they took was having a rally in the Diag and creating an online petition calling for his job.

Students in the Diag rallying to fire Dave Brandon.

Students in the Diag rallying to fire Dave Brandon.

The problem is that many people that signed the petition without knowing all details. One main issue with the petition was that some people who signed it without attempting to look for all the facts and searching for Mr. Brandon’s and the athletes’ side of the story.  One huge example is that Dave Brandon cares deeply about each student athlete on the Michigan campus.  As part of the first women’s lacrosse team here at Michigan, I can vouch that without Dave Brandon the men’s and women’s lacrosse programs would not exist at Michigan.  He not only fought for the creation of our program, but has also raised millions of dollars to provide our teams, as well as all the smaller teams in the athletic department, the best facilities in the NCAA. These facilities will be placed on South Campus and are priced at 200 million dollars.  Dave Brandon has not only promised but has guaranteed his athletes the best, and has risen above all standards as our athletic director.  He works around the clock to make sure that the athletes at Michigan are taken care of and satisfied to be at this university. He makes sure to ask us personal questions about how things are going in order to see if he can help in any way possible. He takes time out of his day to be at all of our games. He even flew to the first women’s lacrosse game at Villanova to watch in person, as the lacrosse team made history. He is not just a businessman; he is personable and caring for each individual athlete on campus. Dave Brandon has guaranteed that all 935 student athletes at Michigan are satisfied with their lifestyles and if you ask me, that is the most important and most difficult job an athletic director can have, and he was successful.

Dave Brandon giving support to a football player during the PSU game

Dave Brandon giving support to a football player during the PSU game

Dave Brandon is a true Michigan man.  He dedicated his work to bettering the athletic programs here at the University of Michigan.  He is an incredible leader and it is OUR loss to have him resign.  Unfortunately, the decline of the football team’s success over the passed few years had to be blamed on someone and the outrage of Michigan’s fan base, alumni and student body caused people to revolt against Dave Brandon.  The pressure on Michigan’s athletic department put Dave Brandon under a magnifying glass and the world was waiting for him to do something wrong. As we can see throughout our history: if something goes wrong, society will find someone to blame.  Dave Brandon is human, he is not perfect, and it was not right for us to put that immense amount of pressure on him, to set him up to fail. Dave Brandon had to step down; the job had become an endangerment to his livelihood. Any respectable person would understand why he would resign. The announcement of Dave Brandon’s resign was a shock and a terrible reality to everyone in the athletic department. The fact that the student body and many other fans turned against the football team and Dave Brandon is something that student athletes cannot believe happened. Dave Brandon will forever be missed by his student athletes.