Dear George Will,
Hi, Bobby Big Wheel here.
In case you forgot, you met me once while I was in college. Of course, Bobby Big Wheel isn't my real name, so I'll forgive you if you don't remember. You seemed like an awkward guy when you walked into the room, but you perked up a bit when I told you that I was from Hartford. That's because a) you knew a bunch of stuff about a minor league baseball team called the Hartford Laurels, who left town when my dad was one year old, and b) you had gone to Trinity College, which was five miles from my house growing up. That's important, because Trinity College has a Division III football team. Now, Division III football can be plenty fun, but it really doesn't compare to the Division I version. If I may use a baseball analogy (I'm guessing that'll work for you), Trinity is like the Hartford Laurels and Alabama is like the New York Yankees. So I'm not sure you have much experience dealing with a major college team.
Now, that'd be fine, except you felt the need to weigh in on major college football. And Georgie (can I call you Georgie?) I think you're out of your element on that one. Your thesis is that college football is the result of misguided progressivism and that it is also a "blemish on American Life." I wonder if your fellow conservatives Bud Wilkinson, Lou Holtz, Joe Paterno, and Tom Osborne feel the same way. That aside, your article reads like a thesaurus, so let me sum up your argument:
- Football became popular because it served progressive goals of specialization and sublimating the individual to the whole.
- Progressives liked how football trained managers (oh and that Walter Camp's progressive brother-in-law was totally racist).
- Other colleges wanted to play football like Harvard, Yale and Princeton because it'd make them more prestigious.
- Progressives led to Alabama playing Michigan in Dallas to open the season.
Let me tackle these one by one:
College football became popular because it served progressive goals. No. College football became popular because it's awesome. I know that you're a baseball person so it's hard for you to accept, but people like football because it's a lot of fun, not because it served progressive goals of specialization and sublimating the individual to the whole. Though I guess you could say football is more progressive than baseball because it's willing to change its rules to make the game more fun. Still, politics have nothing to do with college football's popularity. Just click on these links to see why college football is awesome.
Progressives liked how football trained managers. I got news for you Georgie, progressives would HATE how football trains managers. See, those progressives were all about an eight-hour work day. But when our own Spencer Hall visited Mississippi State (to further the baseball analogy, the Pittsburgh Pirates of college football), he found their coach working 15-hour days during the offseason. Managers in college football are rewarded for the ability to withstand drudgery more than anything else. Again, this isn't a political thing unless you're one of those Marxists who wants to mandate the hours that people work. Those guys hate college football. As for Walter Camp's racist brother-in-law, you got me there! You know who else was racist? Everyone else in the 1920s.
Colleges thought football would make them prestigious. Ever been to France, Georgie? In France, they have this test called the Bac that basically determines where you go to college. Students don't have much of a choice. Goddamn socialists making decisions for other people. But in America we have a free market for colleges. Hooray capitalism! Of course, that means colleges have to market themselves to 17-year-olds. You haven't been a 17-year-old for a while, so let me remind you that the three things 17-year-old guys love most are 1) trying to get laid 2) trying to get drunk and 3) sports. As long as that's the case, college football will be a draw for colleges, and schools will spend millions of dollars on their football programs. So, unless you want to make America more like France (ew gross) college football is here to stay.
Progressives led to Alabama playing Michigan in Dallas to open the season. Georgie, I think you'd like Jerry Jones. He made a ton of money in the oil business and bought the Dallas Cowboys from a guy who wanted to sell to anyone but the Japanese. Then he saw a bunch of other teams getting new stadiums and decided he wanted one too. Did he ask for a government handout? Well, only $350 million or so. But he still invested $850 million of private sector money in that stadium. The Cowboys only play eight home games a year, so Jerry pays colleges a bunch of money to play football games there to help get a return on his big investment. As long as you think that capitalism is rad (I do! F---yeah Roth IRAs!), then neutral-site games are here to stay.
OK, Georgie, I think I've proved my point. College football has a lot of problems, but you didn't really do a good job of explaining why they are the progressive movement's fault.
Instead of trying to blame college football's problems on your political opponents, why don't we try to agree that reform is the best option? That the college football players who don't receive monetary compensation for their work (much like those factory workers that progressives championed 100 years ago) should get a stipend. That we shouldn't let athletic directors be the thrall of corrupt bowl organizations, who unfairly receive 401(c)(3) non-profit taxation status. That neutral site games usually suck because they're not on college campuses.
But those are pretty apolitical. In fact, you might even say that the progressive movement (and that pending election in November) have NOTHING to do with college football's problems.
But if you want to denigrate college football to prove that progressivism sucks, that's your prerogative. You should tell that to all the swing voter Ohio State and Florida fans.
P.S. My Republican uncle gave me one of your books as a gift and I never read it.
While we’re here, let’s watch some of the many fine college football videos from SB Nation’s YouTube channel: