Lack of Student-Athlete Activism at Michigan

In our last reading, “Where are the Jocks for Justice?”, Candaele and Dreier list several instances where athletes had the opportunity to stand up for a cause, but didn’t, or when athletes did stand up for a cause, but received backlash from media or fans.  I realized after reading this article how instances like this exist in our very own athletic department.

Once former athletic director Dave Brandon went under attack this fall, I was instructed by my captains to not say anything negative about the athletic department in any circumstance to avoid anything getting worse.  But even though my entire team and I were fans of Brandon, we were also warned against trying to argue with non-athletes who viewed Brandon negatively. We could not fight back against the majority of the student body who could regularly be heard bashing Brandon on our way to class, in the dining halls, and while we ate in the dorms.  We had to come to terms with the fact that although we were probably more affected by Brandon’s actions within the athletic department and had much more personal communication with him, the majority of other students disagreed with our opinions. 

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The logo for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

“The rise of the professional cyber athlete” reads the tagline of Ben McGrath’s article. The topic is StartCraft, a virtual game that has one of the largest followings in the world. The game is dominated by South Korean’s, but has recently been expanding to other parts of the world, including North America. The most talented players gather to compete in tournaments featuring large cash prizes and many opportunities to gain sponsorships. There is a common question that arises, and the topic has been debated for a long time: What is a sport? (And are eSports actually sports?) Read More

Extra Blog Post: Miracle and Taylor Branch

Since I was a kid, my favorite movie was (and still is) Miracle. I was ecstatic to hear that on November 13th, there was a showing of Miracle in a North Quad. The movie Miracle is a documentary-based drama that highlights the United States men’s hockey team and their road to victory at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The coach at the time, Herb Brooks, is the one of the many reasons that the team won the gold metal, but in the eyes of many sports analysts, reporters and fanatics, he was the sole reason. His intense, strategic and balls to the wall coaching style made him a coaching icon far beyond the sport of hockey, but throughout the athletic community. Kurt Russell, the actor who plays Herb Brooks in the movie, does an excellent job portraying the legendary coach’s extraordinary personality, which leaves audiences with inspiration, appreciation for hard work and in my case, the dream to win the gold metal for the United States. Unfortunately, I chose to play a sport that is not cared about nor offered at the Olympic level… lacrosse. But that’s beside the point.

United States win gold medal in 1980

United States win gold medal in 1980

No matter what your athletic background is, I believe it is impossible to not relate to this movie. Some of the challenges that this team was presented with are challenges that can be easily related to real world. For example, the team was comprised of 20 men that came from all over the country. They were thrown together and expected to win a gold medal for the United States in a matter of about two months. Many people can relate to being placed with a group of people with different backgrounds and contrasting methods, while still expected to construct an impressive production. Whether it is group home works in high school, group projects in college, or a sales team for the company you work for in 10 years, the same roadblocks are run into. The interesting part is that the teamwork and dedication to complete these tasks remains the same throughout every scenario and if everybody within the group isn’t on the same page, then the desired goal will not be achieved efficiently. Coach Brooks introduced this same concept to his team after a tie with the Norwegian National team.

A few weeks before the Norwegian game, Coach Brooks asked each member of the team whom they play for. Each and every one of the players responded with the college they attended. During the game against the Norwegians, Coach noticed that a few of his players were distracted by some smokin’ blondes in the stands, and not playing up to their full potential, Coach Brooks held the team throughout the night conditioning them to the point of sheer exhaustion. The conditioning continues for hours until a player named, Mike Eruzione, shouted, “I play for the United States of America.” Once the players realized that they needed to come together as one unit to achieve their main objective, things began to click within their chemistry. I can personally relate to this bond that the 1980 Olympic team had with each other because the bond that my teammates and I have sparked in similar ways to this Hockey team. It is an indescribable bond that is created when you are in a conditioning session, covered in sweat, moments from collapsing due to exhaustion, demanded to get on the line by coaches, and run another set of sprints. The unity that is shared once the conditioning session is over and the team comes together in a huddle to holler, “Go Blue,” is an unforgettable feeling; and definitely one I will never forget.

Taylor Branch believes all collegiate athletes should be paid

Taylor Branch believes all collegiate athletes should be paid

The day after the sowing of Miracle, November 14th, I also had the opportunity to attend Taylor Branch’s presentation about the relationship between student athletes and the NCAA. Taylor Branch is an author, historian, public speaker, campaigner, and advocate for the rights of student athletes across the United States. Two years ago, freshman year, I took a Sociology course that focused on sports within our society. One of the readings we had for that course was one of Taylor Branch’s most famous pieces, “The Shame of College Sports.” The piece was published in an issue of The Atlantic in October of 2011. In this article, he sheds the light on how collegiate athletes are just as overworked and taken advantage of as employees in the workplace. The “unjust” part of the situation, Branch believes, is how the overworked employees get paid for their services and the athletes do not. It was also interesting to hear Branch hypothesize that the NCAA banned the ability to pay their athletes because they want to keep the profits for themselves.

I would definitely agree with Branch that the NCAA should pay their athletes, but only to a certain extent. Where my opinion differs from Taylor Branch’s is that I believe that the athletes who play sports that create revenue for their school should deserve to get paid. In my case, getting paid for being on the lacrosse team doesn’t make much sense seen as how we are not making money for the University. Think of it as a bonus for the athletes. If they perform to the best of their abilities and their program starts making money for their school, they should deserve to get paid x-amount. With this being said, I also think it would be a good idea to merge the incentive to getting paid with meeting a certain GPA to keep them also focused on their studies. This way, the student athletes would stay focused on getting a good education as well as having the incentive of making money for themselves.

Overall, these two days were an outstanding opportunity to learn more about our society and how sports plays a crucial role within it.

Lesson Learned

I find it hard to believe that the end of the semester is just days away. While I feel I have learned so much since being at U of M, I decided to bring it back to a time when I just arrived on campus. On September 8th, I attended the themed semester’s opening ceremony titled “Game Plan: Achieving Success at Michigan and Beyond”. I was excited to learn as much about this university as possible in the hopes of avoiding looking like a typical, scared freshman with a campus map glued to her face (my map didn’t leave my side for weeks, so I guess that plan backfired). The advice given to me was overwhelming, but I knew it would be significant in my weeks to come here at Michigan. The wonderful words of wisdom given to me have not only helped me succeed at Michigan thus far, but have also reminded me of one of my favorite sports movies ever, Miracle. Both the ceremony and the movie teach valuable lessons regarding work ethic and creating a balance between finding time for both hard work and pleasure.

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Do You Believe in Miracles?

No, the title of this blog post is not a reference to the song or to a Christmas miracle. It’s a reference to one of the best sports announcer (and just sports in genneral) moments in history: the 1980 USA vs USSR Olympic hockey game. A few weeks ago, I went to see the 2004 film Miracle

One of the best movies ever. If you haven't seen it, you should.  Source: Blogspot

One of the best movies ever. If you haven’t seen it, you should.
Source: Blogspot

at North Quad with some friends as one of the LSA themed semester events. I’m sort of in love with this movie, and I’ve actually skated on the rinks where the 1980 team practiced (in Minneapolis, MN) and played (in Lake Placid, NY) during the Olympic Games. My immense love for the story of the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team has definitely prompted my friends to ask me why I feel so strongly about it. It would be easy to brush it off and say that I’m an athlete, so I love underdog stories (but let’s be honest, doesn’t everyone love underdog stories?), but that’s not the full answer. The LSA theme semester asks why we care so much about sports, and I think the answer to that question also answers my friends’ question.

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The NFL and The Principle of Harm

The National Football League is one of the most recognized and respected organizations in America. The league is an incredible revenue generator — the executives, players and coaches amongst others all have six to seven figure salaries. The television market is very large, and they also have ownership one of the most viewed sports events in the world: the Super Bowl. People love to watch football. Some fans of the game watch football religiously, treating every Sunday (and Thursday and Monday) as a holiday. Along with the revenue the league generates, a tremendous amount of money is gambled on the games as well. In the United States, the NFL is the most sport most gambled on, which simply reflects the devoted interest.

Even the most routine plays can injure players. Sometimes concussions leave permenant damage

All in all, the sport has been successful, popular and is continuously growing. As a Fantasy Football player myself, I have watched quite a bit of football without a strong interest in the teams, but rather the players. What I continue to see, game in and game out, is players taking hits. Hard hits. Helmet to helmet hits. Blindsided hits. Fans love the violence in football; I don’t see the appeal. Instead what comes to mind is the injuries, concussions, and long term effects of each and every hit. In our Political Science lecture “Freedom, Harm, and Responsibility,” we used social epistemology of John Stuart Mill to unpack the harm principle — an idea that can be directly connected to the National Football League and the violence within it. Read More

Understanding Attendance Numbers

Upon committing to this amazing institution, I took my official visit and was taken to a University of Michigan Mens Basketball game. Since I have never been to a college basketball game, I did not know what I was in store for. I met up with the coaches, who took us to our seats—about 3 rows up from the floor. We were half an hour early, yet the atmosphere was already unreal. Almost everyone there was wearing a University of Michigan basketball shirt/jersey. Then, within the next fifteen minutes the whole stadium was packed full. The game started and the chants got louder and louder. It was surreal; the amount of people that showed support and sang the chants with everything they had. It was impossible to be drawn away from the game. There was no checking of twitter, Instagram, or any other social media sites. The atmosphere glued everyone to the game; it was as if we were the 6th man, helping them win the game. When the final whistle was blown, Michigan came out victorious. The final applause was baffling; I don’t think I was even able to say anything to my coach at that time and we were standing right next to each other. At this time, I knew I had picked the right college.

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LSA Theme Events

As part of the LSA theme semester the Hatcher Library Gallery has hosted numerous speakers that are in someway involved in sports. Recently I have attended talks by Andrea Joyce and Amy Perko. While the talks focused on very different sports related ideas, each event identified as relevant to our political science class. NBC sports reporter, Andrea Joyce predominantly focused on her experience with gender ideals working in a male dominated field as a woman. Amy Perko, on the other hand, spoke about her involvement with the Knight Commission, an organization that focuses on the treatment of student athletes.

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Imagine a World Without Government…

Hard to imagine, right? Government functions include making laws for lots of things we all do in our everyday lives. In democratic societies, laws are written to provide equal treatment to all people and not discriminate based on race, gender, religion, etc. Yet if this is the plan and if our leaders follow the plan, why do we have so many problems today? Throughout our history, there are endless examples of inequalities and imbalanced rights between different parts of society. Even when laws are modified, such as the way Title IX was supposed to level the playing field between men and women in sports, the laws haven’t worked to expectations; discrimination is still easily found in all parts of modern day life. In social lives, religion and sexual preferences, there are hierarchies. White heterosexual males are still at the top of government, gay individuals are not accepted as “normal” by the majority of the population, and men still run big businesses and are still the primary breadwinners. How is this possible when all of us are supposed to be considered equal, gay marriage laws have been passed, and women have been given extra opportunities to bring them even? Perhaps it’s because governments and laws can change, but people don’t change quite as easily.

In a society, the good people, who don't need rules, and bad people, who do need them, are like the good angel and bad angel

In a society, the good people, who don’t need rules, and bad people, who do need them, are like the good angel and bad angel

It’s been said, “good people don’t need laws and bad people don’t follow them.” Could we be overdoing it on the laws, allowing more chances for bad people to not follow more laws? The answer may be that society would progress without laws. Laws “hinder people’s ability to develop their own personal sets of ethics. They don’t help people learn to respect people for the sake of respecting people.” Most of us don’t like the feeling of not being in charge of ourselves. Perhaps without authority ruling over us, without a higher political power telling us to respect inequalities, more equality would arise.

King Louis XVI

King Louis XVI

Examples of government failure can be seen throughout the history of organized governments. King Louis XVI’s rule over France gave us the legacy of fear. He himself was sentenced to death and decapitated in public. This created an environment in which revolutionaries celebrated a gruesome way of dealing with unjust leaders, which led to increasing the number of guillotines used to promote one belief or another. In Professor Mika LaVaque-Manty’s lecture “Changes. Changes.”, he brings up the concept of epistemic arrogance, or faith in human progress, which includes the power of reason, freedom to experiment, and equal opportunity. The French Revolutionaries were epistemically arrogant in thinking they had figured everything out, knew all the right answers, and how to deal with those who had different thoughts on making their society liveable. Because political change hasn’t been executed correctly, there must be faith in human progress without it. Mill argues that we should experiment with different ways to live together, which could include governing ourselves and having faith in each other.

Burke would argue that the most efficient way of shaping our future is to rely upon our past customs. It is essential to know our past to be able to improve in our future, however the things that have worked in the past may not be concurrent with modern day times. The technological advances we’ve made couldn’t have been predicted and thus modifications to rules are made because of this. Many different groups have been created as well, such as conservative and reform. Either way, we must consider the value of the rules we have and the ones we want to modify to find their significance and the impact they will have on our lives.

There is also a governing rule for all sports. Presidents, commissioners, and owners all exist for each sports team and league. Although they do make many decisions, much of the initial conversation about issues comes from those who play in those leagues.

Jimmy King of the Fab 5 – far left

Jimmy King of the Fab 5 – far left

One example comes from the November 15th University of Michigan theme semester event “Values of College Sports Conference” where various panels led discussions about different topics. Jimmy King, a member of the Fab 5, spoke about education in relation to sport. “We’re past the times of discrimination…whether it be gender or race, we’re all in this together.” We shouldn’t follow the “old values” of the past anymore because our society is changing. King discussed his view about laws and that even as a society, they don’t really make a difference as those with power break them and get away with it, as occurs in the NCAA. The business of college athletics is absurd as coaches take advantage of the system and get paid million whereas the athletes get exploited for their work. In football, rule modifications are made to fit the technology and advancement of the modern day. Speculations about kick-off rule changes have recently been made. If they followed through, would “football without kick-offs still [be] football?” Similarly, would a society without government still be a society? In my opinion, it would. People are afraid of change. Being open to voices other than your own, respecting others, and going outside of your comfort zone to consider the possibilities of improvement in our society, sports leagues and more is necessary for progress as a whole.

Can we learn to be a self-ruling people in the greater society? Do activities like sports that a large part of society participates in need individual governing bodies, or can we do it ourselves? Would there be outrage and an increase in violence if we dismissed laws and governance? I have faith in human progress and believe that the best way to overcome any of the problems we have today is to experiment with our ways of living, like Burke, whether it be minimizing government rule, increasing it, or having an in between. One thing is for sure though, when experimenting we must consider and learn from what we have done in our past when making new decisions for our futures so that we don’t make the same mistake twice. Political knowledge is gained by considering what has been done before us. Perhaps we’ve been through enough change to start something new. As Burke believes, the future is unpredictable. Therefore, we must try out different things, like governing ourselves.