Varsity blues

by awindram

I’ve been told that today is a big day for college football. I wouldn’t know. I do know, however, that there’s a new season of The Bachelor premiering tonight… so yeah… guess that’s what will be on in my household tonight.

Still, varsity sport, and its importance within the US, is an aspect of American life I have grappled with trying to understand. For a while I thought college sport solely existed so people could annoyingly name-drop their alma mater into every conversation. Later on, I learned that it is, in fact, a billion dollar industry and that you can gain entry to an (ostensibly) academic institution not due to your intelligence, but your sporting ability which, alongside legacy admissions, seems to me a perverse way of going about university admissions. I can’t imagine it happening in the other direction. Manchester United won’t be offering trials on the basis of A-level results any time soon.

“After I showed the gaffer your essay on Gladstone’s third ministry, he said to me, ‘sign him up! Sign him up!’ I’ll be honest, it’s the best piece of coursework we’ve seen on C19th political history since Scholesy tackled the 1832 Reform Act. Son, you’re just what the team needs at the moment. We’re putting you in on the left wing.”

All of which makes me wonder if I would be doing my future children a disservice by encouraging them to do well at school when they could have a better chance of getting a free ride at university if they put the books away and started practising the trampoline.

Not that I have anything against those athletes who take up a football or basketball scholarship. Indeed, I don’t see why they are not paid a fair share of the billions that they’re generating for the NCAA. They are – particularly those playing for schools in the Big 10 and Pac-12 – the main players in a product that generates billions through ESPN coverage and advertising revenue; amateurs in an avaricious game. The Corinthian spirit this is not.