The day after the NCAA tournament is always a sad day for me, and not just because after binge-watching basketball for a month, I feel wrung-out. It’s because in spite of everything I love this stupid sport, this annual event.
Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
Sometimes I joke that the IOC and FIFA are the most corrupt institutions in the world. But I think the NCAA surely comes close. So many schools have been riddled with scandals of academic fraud, point-shaving, illegal recruiting, even drug dealing over the years with little consequence, that I don’t even know where to start. When you look at the Duke lacrosse rape case, the Penn State child sex scandal, Larry Nassar molesting gymnasts while at Michigan State, there is clearly a huge problem in college sports that reflects a lot of bigger social problems.
“ESPN is about sports. ESPN is not a political organization.” — ESPN president John Skipper
This has led to me seeing variations of the phrase “politics has no place in sports” plastered all over social media.
If only this were true.
In 2005, the United States Congress held hearings about doping in baseball. Top players testified. Jose Canseco famously admitted to using steroids in the past. Mark McGwire, feeling as though he’d be vilified either way, famously said “I’m not here to talk about the past.”
In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer were killed by a secular Palestinian terrorist group. They were aided by German neo-Nazis.
In 2015, a movie titled Concussion was made based on a 2009 GQ exposeabout the NFL trying to suppress a forensic pathologist’s research on brain degeneration due to chronic trauma that football players sustain.
In 1991, the Baseball Hall of Fame voted Pete Rose to be permanently ineligible for induction, after he agreed in 1989 to a permanent ineligibility from baseball due to betting on games while he was a player and manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Rose is the all-time MLB leader in hits, games played, at-bats, and singles.
In 2017, TV deals kick in for the Big Ten conference from which athletic departments will reportedly get payouts of $43 million in 2017–2018. Most schools the U.S. don’t profit from athletics and siphon off money from academic budgets to keep pace. College athletes, even at schools that doprofit, are not paid for their work.
This is not simply a rant about how bad NBC’s coverage of the Olympics was. Anyone who has NBC and even remotely cared about the Olympics knows why NBC’s coverage was terrible.
This is a blog entry in which I try to figure out why. (The short answer is money. The slightly longer short answer is that all of our values eventually lead us back to money. Awesome.)
Possibility #1: People don’t actually like/have the attention span for sports.
Sports are one of the few things that get a strong emotional reaction out of me. I don’t know exactly why, but there is just something about the combination of sportsmanship, dedication, athleticism, teamwork, the joys of victory and the agony of defeat that gets me.
Basketball is my sports-watching poison of choice (you try growing up in Indiana), but I’ll obsess over pretty much any sporting contest if given the opportunity. This summer alone I’ve indulged in the French Open, the NBA Finals, Wimbledon, the UEFA Euro, the Tour de France, and the summer Olympics. The thing about the first five events is that I was actually able to watch them. I saw complete matches, complete games, even complete road stages.1
Enter: The Olympics, NBC-style.