Basically everyone is reporting that Peyton Manning is about to retire from the NFL now that he’s won a Super Bowl with the Broncos. This isn’t much of surprise to anyone in Colorado since it’s been widely expected that he would be replaced after not really doing so well.
The Ivy League has just passed rules to outlaw tackling in football practices. The changes still need to be officially passed, but were approved by all the coaches. Obviously, the main motivation of this would be to prevent injuries – and especially the kinds of brain injuries that are turning out to be incredibly common in football. The Ivy League has a history of passing rules to do much more than most of the NCAA to make sure that athletes are actually real students and to keep them safe, so this is another example of the league being one of the leaders in improving conditions for college athletes. Hopefully, the rest of the NCAA will follow and start passing similar rules.
The Denver Broncos just defeated Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, redeeming themselves after their shameful performance two years ago.
Also, apparently Super Bowl L wasn’t good enough for branding purposes so they stopped using Roman numerals, at least for this year.
Deflategate has returned to the news! After asking various physicists about their thoughts on the controversy and then commissioning a report about who might have known what and when, the NFL has determined that Patriots employees probably did intentionally deflate footballs in the AFC championship and that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady probably knew about it. This isn’t the first cheating scandal to hit the Patriots in recent years, and it definitely won’t do anything to help their already pretty dismal reputation among non-Patriots football fans. I would also note that while the Patriots may claim to be the team representing all of New England, they are quite clearly a Boston team not a New England team.
The NFL finally decided to give up its nonprofit status after facing growing criticism about its former tax-exempt status. While incorporating as a nonprofit is not quite as ridiculous as it might sound (the actual teams and other related organizations are for-profit but the league itself is only a small piece of pro football), most people will be glad that the central office for what is clearly a business is now labelling itself a business. There are still plenty of things for people to criticize the NFL, so don’t expect people to stop just because the NFL has fixed one minor problem.
To basically no one’s surprise, native of Bristol, Connecticut and former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of murder yesterday. He was sentenced to life without parole. This was also only one of several murders where Hernandez was possibly involved.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an op-ed piece by the director of a research institute at UNC on her ideas of how to fix the problems with college sports. Unfortunately, I don’t find it to be very convincing. The author argues for allowing varsity athletes to get a degree in sports/athletics. This seems to me to be one of the worst possible ways to fix things. Instead of working to reduce the amount of money in athletics and strengthen incentives/requirements to actually educate athletes in revenue-generating sports, this sounds like giving up on ever fixing anything. The suggestions for special classes for athletes are more or less what led to the recent problems at UNC in the first place. When athletics becomes the primary focus of part of an academic department (i.e. the school part of school), there are huge incentives to reduce the rigor of the classes (or even get rid of the class altogether except on paper) to keep athletes eligible, no matter how academically unprepared or uninvolved they are.
I strongly suspect that giving athletes more than token credit for things like weightlifting would lead to schools giving lip service to the idea of this as a class while treating this simply as another part of practice. Does anyone really expect students at a major Division I football team to learn physiology from team weightlifting? The whole idea sounds preposterous.
Equally troubling is the focus on things like licensing, leadership, experiential learning and others. These are basically all just buzzwords being used to justify handing credit to varsity athletes while asking for nothing in return other than performance on the field. Nothing in the article sounds as if these sports majors would offer the kind of rigorous, coherent curricula that are found in traditional academic fields.
The author’s comparisons of art to sports are not really apt. Arts students typically don’t get the kinds of perks that varsity athletes at major programs get and also don’t get the kinds of huge breaks in admissions that are especially common in football and basketball. Furthermore, the arts hold a very different position in our culture compared to sports. Arts are seen as an intellectual pursuit and as part of a millennia-old cultural tradition. Sports are seen more as mass entertainment or even martial training, but not as intellectual exercises. The revenue-generating sports of football and basketball have only existed in something like their current forms for 100 years. In other words, the arts are part of what we might call “high culture” while sports are part of low or vulgar (in the sense of “common”) culture. This distinction may be arbitrary, but it does exist. Even in the arts, for example, classical music is regarded by most as more academic or intellectual than Top 40 radio. In writing, there is the difference between literary fiction and pulp fiction. The high culture variants of the arts are seen as worthy of academic study while the mass-market versions are often not. There are certainly many things about things like sports or pop music that are worthy of study, but that doesn’t mean that we should hand degrees for playing football, passably singing a pop song written by someone else, or writing a trashy romance novel.