Long ago, college athletics crossed the line from being an amateur sport to being a business, and a very professional one at that.
In my lexicon, there is a great gulf between sports and athletic competition.
Team sports are justified as an entertaining means of promoting sportsmanship and esprit de corps; i.e. developing comradeship, enthusiasm and devotion.
The concept of sportsmanship is utterly abused in college athletics.
Definitions of sportsmanship include such concepts as “ethical, appropriate, polite and fair behavior,” “qualities and behavior befitting a sportsman,” and “fair play, courtesy and grace in losing.”
Interestingly, my search wasn’t exhaustive, but I turned up only one definition that included grace in winning.
Football has become the dregs of collegiate athletic endeavors.
Where is the sportsmanship in instantaneous celebrations, not only after scoring, but in-your-face, play by play jumping around, fist-raising, tumbling antics after making a good tackle or a good run or catch?
Of course the home crowd loves it; but that’s the problem.
The practice fosters abusive behavior; anything but courtesy or grace.
But it is lionized because it sells tickets and television ads.
I spent some time researching videos of college football games in the 1930s without finding the kind of circus celebrations now an integral part of today’s “game.”
Universities have prostituted themselves in turning football into a business. I’m sure it developed over several decades as they turned increasingly to business principles over sportsmanship.
I would postulate that the business side of college athletics emerged before the advent of television, but that television’s millions of dollar contracts greatly accelerated the demise of true sportsmanship.
Now we find it a farce, so far as sportsmanship is concerned.
Television is not only destroying true athletic ethics, but the game itself.
A few of us old codgers remember football before television-dictated time-outs for commercials and penalties in Pullman games being called by “officials” watching replays in New York. We also remember a time before television networks controlled athletic schedules, even down to the time of day to start games.
It was a different game, very different in bygone decades.
Television’s business model has changed the game in unhealthy ways as universities are ever groping for big bucks.
This brings us to the current move to drive a stake through the heart of amateur athletics: Pay for play; e.g., allowing businesses to pay athletes for use of their image, name and likeness.
California’s Fair Pay for Play Act would create an unfair competitive advantage that could devastate college football.
That competitive advantage would benefit major football powers to the detriment of the rest of the institutions in their league.
This measure is a matter — pure and simple — of power seeking to increase its power.
Pay for play would create a powerful division in the economic status of players. The game already gives high rewards to high-profile players; mainly quarterbacks, runners and receivers.
All glory to them.
But, to paraphrase President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign speech, someone needs to tell these stars that they didn’t become stars alone. They don’t do it alone; but become stars on the backs of little-celebrated teammates who labor in the trenches without glory.
How fair will the pay be for teammates who make it possible for stars to brightly shine?
Terence L. Day is a retired Washington State University faculty member and 47-year Pullman resident.