“Orwell and March Madness”
By JOE NOCERA
Published: March 30, 2012
“If you’ve been watching the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championship — a k a March Madness — you’ve undoubtedly seen the commercial. It’s an N.C.A.A. ad that shows college athletes pumping iron, running sprints and playing games. The voice-over, though, talks not about athletic achievement but academic accomplishment. “African-American males who are student-athletes are 10 percent more likely to graduate,” says the narrator. As the ad concludes, a female athlete looks into the camera and says, “Still think we’re just a bunch of dumb jocks?”…
“It was amusing this week to watch Emmert trot out “the collegiate model” as he was confronted with the reality of the “one and done” freshman. “One and done” freshmen — or players who have no interest in college and are enrolling only until they turn 19 and become eligible for the professional draft — have been a hot topic in the runup to this weekend’s Final Four. That’s because John Calipari, the Kentucky coach, has become the master of recruiting them — and his team is favored to win the championship. Calipari is completely upfront about what he is doing: He is gaming the system by bringing in players who need a way station until they are old enough to turn pro. Indeed, Calipari tells them when he is recruiting them that he doesn’t expect them to stay for more than a year.
“In his great novel about totalitarianism, “1984,” George Orwell described the three slogans of The Party: War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength.
“The N.C.A.A. has its own equivalents. Athletes Are Students. College Sports Is Not About Money. Graduation Is The Goal.
“Enjoy the Final Four.
I admit to a lack of interest in basketball and football exceeded only by my lack of interest in NASCAR. At least, the NASCAR drivers make no pretence of being “amateurs” and don’t masquerade as “students” while training at public expense to become recruits in franchises owned by billionaires. So it seems there is a measure of honesty to the act of driving in endless left turns that is not present in those “games” involving a ball of some shape.
The concept of the student athlete honed on the playing fields of Eaton and other British institutes of academe is not matched by the reality of the American “student athlete.” The entire NCAA scheme is designed to control the concept that is fed to the public; leading that public to believe that a difference exists between American “athletes” and gladiators of the Roman Empire games.
Our public, willing to believe that the modern-day gladiators might actually exhibit loyalty to the school or franchise that pays them; is particularly willing to believe a message of sponsorship delivered by a pneumatically enhanced female in scant attire, proffering beer and/or junk food. Orwell knew that the message was of less importance than the messenger.
Yesterday heralded the beginning of tick and mosquito season. I felt one of the nasty little parasites crawling on the back of my neck, looking for a place to attach. Last season was rather diminished in nature due to the intensely cold winter that preceded it. The past winter 2011-2012, being much milder in temperature, predisposes to a much greater population of biting insects.
Ex-Officio offers a line of “bug-away” clothing. I have used it before with a lot of success. We’ll use it again this year.