I know I should be talking about the Super Bowl…

…but what a gahd-awful game. That was eerily reminiscent of my childhood, when Super Bowls regularly sucked – games in which there was not one shred of doubt about the outcome of the game from virtually the opening kickoff. Football fans have been relatively spoiled for the past decade – since Tampa Bay’s demolition of the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, we had ten straight competitive to extremely competitive games before this one. Buck and Aikman did their best to keep calling the game as if Denver still had a chance to win long after it was obvious they couldn’t. But it was a dismal affair for three and a half unrelenting hours.

One good outcome of the game was that a second African-American quarterback is now a Super Bowl champion. With all relevant caveats, there’s been very important myth-busting in the NFL in recent years surrounding the positions in football most associated with intelligence – head coach, general manager and quarterback. And Russell Wilson’s success certainly moves the ball forward in that regard.

That’s all I can think of to say about the Super Bowl for the moment.

To return, just briefly for now, to a topic I wrote about quite a bit last week, I’ve been reading additional law review articles over the weekend about the question of NCAA athletes – especially in men’s basketball and football – as employees as understood in American labor law. One central factor in answering the question is whether the pursuit in question serves a primarily educational function and whether, therefore, the principal purpose for bringing the participants to campus is in pursuit of that educational purpose. In the case of big-time college basketball and football, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could say with a straight face that, indeed, education is the goal of fielding a football team at Alabama, or UNC or Michigan and that the players most intensively recruited to play in those programs is recruited in order, primarily, to provide them with an education. Whether the logic of this argument could be extended to other sports is, I think, an interesting one, and would depend on the sport and the school. But it seems essentially impossible to deny the purpose of the enterprise and the recruitment of participants in that enterprise when it comes to major college football and men’s basketball.

One other quick comment for now on the term “student-athlete.” I’ve purged it from my own vocabulary. And the truth is, everyone else should, too. The history of the term is well-known by now – a propaganda phrase created by the NCAA to help it fight off the potentially very adverse consequences (for the NCAA and member schools) of losing workmen’s compensation cases in state courts. Walter Byers, the man most responsible for the creation of the NCAA as the powerhouse we now know, explained this all very clearly, expressly noting that the term was deployed to highlight the educational and obscure the commercial functions of college athletics.

For the reasons Upton Sinclair explained long ago – that ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it’ – we shouldn’t expect NCAA officials, coaches and sports media in the tank for the collegiate sports enterprise to cease using the term. But for the rest of us – it’s time to drop it.

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One comment

  1. I don’t see the problem with an occasional Super Bowl butt-whupping. As a football fan, I feel like sometimes I’d rather see a one-sided game where one team plays extraordinarily well than a close game where both teams muddle along. I still have happy memories of enjoying Bears-Patriots and Giants-Broncos when recent games like Packers-Steelers and Saints-Colts have already faded to blurs in my mind.

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