Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Football Scandals, Death of a Sex Fiend, and, Why Won't the Literary Itch Ever Just Die?

With USC and Ohio State football both being handed big punishments recently after some scandals, or at least blatant rulebreaking, by various of their coaches and players, much of the progressive sports media has been reviving the call for paying college athletes, or at least football and basketball players at powerhouse programs. I do not follow college sports that closely so I don't really care whether things move in this direction--I would prefer it didn't, though it doesn't look like the college presidents and other people who would be in charge of this have any intention of (officially) implementing such a system. One suspects a modest stipend would not be satisfactory to some of the more prominent talents; and anything more than that would remove most of the remaining pretenses that the players were students and would require them to be dealt with as employees, with all that that entails, which I don't think the university powers are interested in doing.

The primary source of amusement for me in these debates is all the hand-wringing about how the players on scholarship, many being from disadvantaged backgrounds, don't have any money to so much as go to a movie or take their girlfriends out for pizza (and presumably milkshakes). They aren't allowed to hold jobs anymore, apparently because of the probability of abuse at the most extreme football-mad schools (i.e., $10,000 for putting in a couple of hours sitting at the desk at a prominent alumnus' car dealership). For some reason one never hears about the football players at Appalachian State or Arkansas-Pine Bluff having to forgo dates or be consigned to their rooms for the weekend because they have no walking around money, yet they are presumably from similar backgrounds as athletes at most of the big time schools. My father was a scholarship athlete back in the 60s at a fairly major sports school (Villanova) in track and field, now a minor sport but more significant at that time. Everything having to do with life at school--books, meals, laundry, etc--was completely free. He was fond of telling the story that he was given so many 'snack tickets' (i.e. for free snacks) that he ended up giving most of them away. My father was intelligent and had gotten a very good education in the pre-Vatican II Catholic school system--much better than the public education I received 20 years later--but due to parental alcoholism, chronic unemployment, marital separation--the usual story--his family was quite poor at the time he was in school, and he certainly would never have attended a comparable private university without the scholarship. I realize this was a different era, and people were in general accustomed to living more austerely, especially at school, but he regarded himself as having gotten the break of his life. He was able to work in the summer, and though he gave quite a bit of that to his mother, what he had left was sufficient to support a perfectly reasonable social life. I doubt that the problem today is that the players are so materially deprived, but that their expectations and grandiose self-conceptions, as well as those of their coaches and institutions, have 'gotten out of hand'. I would say 'transcended far beyond the bounds which a proper foundation in liberal learning might have had the effect of inculcating', but the use of phrases like "liberal learning" as if it represented something that actually existed seems to send more college graduates into a state of fury nowadays than any number of scandals involving athletes and money, crime, etc.

Another anecdote about my father's career is that the Villanova team, which was in those days, and generally still is, a powerhouse in college track, got to travel several times a year to big meets in places in New York and Boston, and I think they even went to Tennessee once. This going to New York and staying in a hotel and being taken sightseeing and all--even though the college was just in Philadelphia--was considered kind of a big deal, a real perk, as it were. Even when I was a kid, there would be footage on TV of the players from Iowa or Ohio State visiting Disneyland when they made the Rose Bowl as if being able to go to California must be the thrill of their lives. Nowadays of course the top high school teams in most sports fly all over the country to play each other, often televised on ESPN 2 or 3. Of course they expect to get paid.

I know the colleges--or at least a handful of them at the very top of the pyramid--make a lot of money off of these players, and unlike the institutional networks at Harvard and places like that, the players' affiliation with their school does not seem to be of much help to many (though not all) of them later in life. The amount of money at stake clearly contributes to corruption, compromises of integrity, and so forth, at many of the schools, and the institutional energy and resources expended on athletics in general at most places I think has become really disproportionate even compared to what it was in the 1970s. I also think it puts the schools in a bad position vis-a-vis the players, many of whom obviously consider that they should be getting a cut of this largess beyond their scholarships and the benefits of their prominent affiliation with the university. I think there is a place for athletics in collegiate life, but it should never have been allowed to get to the point where it is so much about money at all, and especially the kind of sums that are involved now.

I was going to write something a sex maniac I read about who killed himself at age 73 while facing trial for thirteen separate rape charges. He was the guy wrote the song "You Light Up My Life"--which I thought was about God or Jesus or something but never mind--and he had been a moderately succesful, if not critically respected, figure in show business, with the peak of his career coming during the 1970s. My immediate impression was "Gosh, this guy has had a lot of sex in his life, and, at least in his own desire and expectation to fornicate, he remained voracious into his old age (He lured the girls he is accused of raping--all aged 18-30--to his apartment via ads for a 'casting call'). Obviously the guy was a total sleaze even on his good days and was revealed as a criminal in the end, but for somebody like me who goes through life feeling as if I so much as put a hand on a woman's shoulder in a moment of spontaneity authorities are going to instantly descend upon me and make sure that I am forbidden entry to any pleasant corner of society ever again and that my life will be generally ruined, the audacity and sense of entitlement of people like this just blows you away. I could have used just a little of it, and it would have made a enormous difference in my life.

Literary Nudgings?

Several incidents happened this week which made me wonder if I should not go back and try writing again. In short, I found out that a couple of people I vaguely know, who were decidedly outsiders of the publishing world at the time that I knew them, have succeeded not only in having their books published, but have received some good acclaim and more than enough validation to bear the title and status of 'writer' among all but the very uppermost reaches of the educated classes. I am a long way from getting to such a point now, farther than I was 10 years ago, but...there is still something there, some material, some idea that I would like to see presented in a way that may be peculiar to myself. It needs to be organized and thought through with a clearer head than I have at the moment, but my instincts for the type of writing I would want to do are still pretty good, and I am still pretty secure in their value, assuming they could be skillfully executed. But as I say, I am now a very long way from being capable of doing that...


Gil Roth said...


Elsa Louise said...

I agree. Write. I’ve been reading through your archives for the past few hours. You demonstrate considerable facility with composition, and your blog is utterly captivating.

mm45 said...

Hi. Thanks for leaving a note. I hope you didn't really spend any time reading this stuff, though a good deal of it is about you in a roundabout way, I guess. I don't believe we ever spoke, but you gave me a look of such absolute visceral contempt once that I must say has stayed with me, in the background of my day to day consciousness of course, but always there as a grounding reminder of some essential truth about myself, over all these long years. It must have made something of the impression it had the intention to make, if it had any intention.

Elsa Louise said...

About me? Kind sir, we have never met, in either the virtual world or the physical. It is not in my nature to give anyone a look of visceral contempt, absolute or otherwise, particularly someone whose writerly acquaintance I have only just made.

I discovered your blog the other day via reading around the interwebs, and my note was merely meant as an offering of praise for your style.

mm45 said...

I apologize. According to your profile you have the same name, live in the same city, and work in the same field as a woman I went to school with with whom I was not on especially good terms and who could be of a sarcastic bent towards people for whom she had little patience, so I thought you might be she. But if you are not, then of course my response to your kind, indeed taken at face value almost blush-inducing comment must have seemed most ungracious. Thank you again, and again I am sorry for my misunderstanding.

Elsa Louise said...

Your most gracious apology is accepted. But, oh dear and yikes! I feel bad for you and the unpleasant earlier relationship. That is very sad.

The situation has reminded me of the implications of Google having changed the manner in which it now displays names on Blogger’s profile page. For a long while, it offered both first name and last name fields plus the option of a different display name. At some point in the past few months, the first two were eliminated, leaving only a display name field.

I choose to sign my comments on blogs with my first and middle names only, whereas when I did so before the change, a person could go to my profile and view my surname as well, if curiosity dictated such.

You, having put me in mind of this, have prompted me to move on it. I’ve gone to my Blogger profile and redirected the web page link to my Google profile page, on which one can see my entire name (von Schreiber being the surname-in-question).

So many sites! So little time…

I meant what I wrote earlier, MM45. I edit for a living, so I do bring some perspective to the topic. I read the writings of many different folks, mostly academics who are seeking publication in their various academic journals. Prior, I worked as a government editor.

Your postings are rich, so chock full of detail! Fluid and graceful in execution, like beautiful gestures. My comment merely was echoing that of Gil, albeit in an expanded manner, since you seemed to be in a reflective mood in re your literary leanings.

Why, indeed, do we write? For whom do we do so?