A failed game plan

Naison, Mark

COLLEGE SPORTS A FAILED GAME PLAN SHOOTING FOR LASTING GOALS In the lives of America's poor, no institution plays a more visible role than sports. On a typical winter's day, a drive through...

...They are not needed in factories, not needed in offices, and increasingly not even needed in the high-tech army...
...He coaches basketball, baseball, and soccer for the St...
...Such reforms, both educational and legal, would assure that youngsters in the athletic workforce get the maximum return from powerful institutions who benefit from their labor...
...In the face of such dealings, is it any wonder that young athletes shave points, get people to write papers for them, and take under-the-table payoffs...
...MARK NAISOS Dr...
...Ain't nothing happening, we see that...
...Those involved in organized sports whether as little league coaches, community center directors, or athletic administrators thus have an awesome responsibility...
...So what we supposed to do...
...that the athletic labor market is an irrational place to focus one's energy: There is disturbingly consistent evidence that the black athlete who blindly sets out to fill the shoes of Dr...
...That's a bad cat...
...Other paths to mobility less glamorous but more certain than sports have sharply diminished for lower-income Americans...
...Several of the- best books about big-time college sports, especially Willie Morris's The Courting of Marcus Dupree (Doubleday, 1983), offer astonishing talcs of college coaches going into shacks without indoor plumbing or dangerous big city housing projects to court star athletes...
...We are only beginning to understand the full consequences of deindustrialization, of the destruction of employment opportunities based on physical strength and mechanical skill...
...Universities invest tens of millions of dollars in stadiums, arenas, and training facilities...
...When basketball star Lcn Bias died of an overdose at the University of Maryland, a first-rate research institution, the coach was kicked upstairs rather than fired, and given a six-figure salary...
...Is what they are doing a complete waste of time...
...To the observer of American sports, none of this is surprising...
...It is a sign of profound national pathology that top students pour into Wall Street to become expert at dismantling companies while millions of young people, living amidst vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and broken-down roads and rail lines cannot find jobs...
...rather, they must somehow transform themselves into computer programmers, word processors, list-makers, accountants, and advertising copywriters...
...But one is still haunted by images of thousands of kids in poor neighborhoods working to perfect their athletic skills, under the most adverse conditions imaginable...
...There were times in American history when poor minority communities were valued for their labor power...
...In the short run, we must recognize that sports do serve as a lifeline for inner city communities...
...Mark Naison is associate professor and chairperson of the department of Afro-American Studies at Fordham University...
...Whereas once people entered sports to escape backbreaking, dead-end jobs, now poor people use sports to escape economic obsolescence and criminality...
...nonstop basketball games on hoops made of crates attached to fences...
...Sports offers one of the few tracks from poverty to the mainstream...
...Throughout New York City, school gyms whose doors have to be protected by armed guards arc filled with coaches, recruiters, and representatives of scouting services who come to evaluate local talent...
...The explanation is far more depressing...
...The hard ass curb...
...There are many communities in the United States where there is a total mismatch between the educational level and cultural values of the population, and the employment opportunities of the local labor market...
...It sells television time...
...That ain't news to nobody...
...affair...
...Be O.J...
...Within a week of the announcement, recruiters from 130 different schools descended on the campus to lure the stranded players to their home institutions...
...But in the long run, we must change national priorities so that sports no longer serve as a primary repository of the hope for upward mobility...
...Needless to say, for people whose families have been locked in poverty for generations, whose neighborhoods have been abandoned by the literate, the civic minded, and the upwardly mobile, this transition seems unlikely and even undesirable...
...is destined to end up with 'No J' no job whatever that he is qualified to do in our modern technologically sophisticated society...
...Go to church like the old folks...
...John Wideman's memoir of his imprisoned brother...
...200: Commonweal...
...Something must be done to tap their idealism and creativity before they become hopelessly cynical...
...Among welfare, drugs, hustling, and sports, the latter is the only one that combines glamour with resources and respectability...
...We know what's going down...
...Certainly not to recruit science majors...
...Ain't none of us out there in the street crazy...
...They should have the right to collective bargaining, grievance machinery', guarantees of proper medical care, and workmen's compensation for serious injuries...
...Richard Lapchick, ed., Lexington Books...
...Reggie J...
...In the world Wideman describes, sports represents one of the few labor markets that is accessible...
...So the rags-to-riches theme in sports, an ancient American saga, has a new and special poignancy...
...We should make the same fiscal corrmitment to rescuing our youth that we do to protecting the national defense...
...But in America of the 1980s, the athletic road from marginality to wealth and status is not only more complex and competitive, increasingly it becomes one of the few remaining avenues for making the journey...
...Our most popular athletic heroes have often gained their energy fighting the demons of poverty and marginality: Babe Ruth, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, I^rry Bird products of orphanages, ghettos, single parent families all turned early handicaps into a badge of honor...
...Instead, we should support educational reforms in sports at all levels: minimum grade requirements for participation on high school teams...
...Or of high school football games in backwater towns being besieged by scouts, many of them flying in on their own private planes...
...What else is out there...
...or Dr...
...At the end of his sports career, he is not running or flying through airports like O.J...
...Harry Edwards has argued ("The Collegiate Athletic Arms Race" in Fractured Focus: Sport as a Reflection of Society...
...We look around and what do we see...
...minimum standards of admission to universities...
...For what other purpose than sports would representatives of the University of Arizona or North Carolina State come to the South Bronx...
...Like the street life and the drug traffic, the game never stops it's life, it's art, it's hope...
...He is more likely to be sweeping up airports if he has the good fortune to land even that job...
...Given the disintegration of so many other institutions, it is counterproductive to tell youngsters not to spend time honing their athletic skills...
...In an atmosphere reminiscent of a slave auction, the young athletes were able to sell themselves to the highest bidder, the rewards being services rather than cash...
...Young people hardened by a poverty not that different from generations before them, can no longer use their street smarts and physical strength in construction, mining, transportation, or the production of basic commodities on the scale of the past...
...played amidst speeding cars and broken bottles...
...We supposed to die...
...harsh penalties for coaches who neglect the education of their athletes...
...That's why the highest thing you can say about a cat is he made his from the curb...
...Their signals are coming from the top...
...What if the people who are most involved with children in their neighborhood, who give them love, attention, discipline, and opportunities arc the coaches and community center directors and teachers who double in those roles...
...In addition, we should develop new codes of conduct that recognize the employee status of major college athletes...
...exchanging the verbal jousting of street corners and schoolyards for the soft tones of office discourse...
...Boards of trustees discuss the recruitment of blue chip athletes as though the economic viability of great institutions rested on the shoulders of eighteen-year-old athletes...
...Homcwood look like five miles of bad road...
...Dupes of media hype and racist man10 April 1987: 199 ipulation...
...Take our little welfare checks and be quiet and die...
...What they are doing is a rational response to the objective opportunities before them...
...Them little checks and drugs...
...Asking sports to perform that role is a s,ign of warped priorities and a political culture in an advanced state of decay...
...Saviour Youth Council in Brookhn...
...What is to be done...
...The low graduation rates of black athletes in revenue producing sports bears out Professor Edwards's warnings of the pitfalls of intercollegiate athletics...
...That's a cat that took nothing and made something...
...We know it...
...It's what's happening every day in Homcwood...
...But the skills that enable them to survive in their neighborhood guile, creativity, toughness, ferocity make them superior athletes...
...The positive values of sports discipline, teamwork, fairness, endurance in the face of adversity serve as powerful counterweights to the hustling culture and the welfare cycle Yet even here, too frequently, representatives of organized sports, especially on the higher levels, have reinforced the cynicism of inner city youngsters...
...Magic J., Kareem Abdul J., or O.J...
...baseball and soccer games played on vacant lots surrounded by abandoned buildings...
...1986...
...When a dude drives up in a big hog and goes in the bar with a fox on his arm and drops a yard on the counter, he's bad...
...And in America today, sports is an unparalleled marketing device...
...J? Shit...
...It sells consumer products...
...Athletic departments offer salaries that dwarf those of university faculties...
...Not only were prominent citizens embarrassed by the disclosure of their involvement in the S.M.U...
...What else be he but bad if he made all his shit from that hard rock...
...Why are they working so hard...
...Sad to say, organized sports, from high schools through the professional ranks, may be the only mainstream institution that actually needs the labor of low-income youths...
...To an increasing degree, it sells institutions of higher learning...
...We see what's going down...
...What if the atmosphere in their families, schools, and peer culture is so contradictory to the values of the mainstream society that they know, from an early age, that they arc unlikely to enter the middle class through education...
...What if everyone who achieves success that way leaves the neighborhood...
...What if no one in their family has a unionized bluecollar job, or has accumulated the education and sophistication to work in an office...
...The street out there...
...Got to be bad...
...Brothers and Keepers (Holt...
...The young people of our inner cities should be recruited not to shoot baskets or catch passes, but to rehabilitate abandoned houses, revive dormant farms and factories, clean up parks and streets, and construct schools, libraries, and ballfields...
...But in the 1980s, few large employers seek to recruit their labor force in inner city neighborhoods...
...Rinehart & Winston, 1984) explains why: See...
...Ain't everybody in the street crazy...
...Are they victims of false consciousness...
...On a typical winter's day, a drive through low-income neighborhoods in big city America offers poignant and unforgettable images: touch football games at 11 P.M...
...The shameless commercialism of American higher education was displayed to telling effect when the NCAA recently announced that it was suspending football at Southern Methodist University for one year...

Vol. 114 • April 1987 • No. 7


 
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