One of my favorite journalistic features at the moment is a series on the sports website Deadspin.com. The site currently is compiling writing samples from various “student-athletes,” in order to determine who is “America’s Dumbest Student Athlete.” To be sure, there is no shortage of competition for that title. From all over the country, entries to this prestigious contest have poured in like submissions to the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes.
A few illustrative examples are in order. Eric Kubik, a University of Wisconsin-Parkside wrestler, compared former Civil War general and two-term president Ulysses S. Grant to his friend James:
Ulysses S Grant is and would be a hard man to compare to anyone, yet [o]f anyone I know my friend James most closely relates to him better than any that I can ponder . . . Rumors said that Grant drank too much, as is said about James. Grant was said to have drinking binges, but there was little evidence of this. James was introduced to the dry martini at the very young age of 14. It’s sorry to say, but his mother’s love for antiques and late night TV only surpassed this drink.
Hard to argue with that. Hell, hard to translate it into English. In my opinion, however, Mr. Kubik’s efforts were surpassed by one “T-Billie,” a football player from Clemson. This ACC scholar-athlete wrote an essay so powerfully bad that, after reading it, I flushed my eyes out with Clorox:
My opinion is that I believe that student athletes should get paid for what they do for the university and the lack of time they have to their self. A couple of reasons why . . . student athletes should get paid: lack of time, athletes help the university to make money, athletes have low income families, and can’t get a part time job. Reason why to pay student athletes is Pell Grants, they get schalorships, and they have a chance to get a degree, to go to the pro’s, or both.
That’s elocution worthy of William F. Buckley, Jr. And, naturally, T-Billie gives props where props are due:
The overall view of the class, this class really help me a lot in many different areas with my writing skills. Giving us freewrites 1 2 3 which give us the chance to vioce our opinion on different topic help me to write little better never time. I just want to thank you for a exciting spring and hope to have you as a teacher in the future.
Despite T-Billie’s mangled syntax, I find myself having to concede one of his points: that student-athletes should be paid. Why not? Student-athletes often receive only the flimsiest of educations. For every Myron Rolle, there are dozens of student-athletes who, despite attending some of our nation’s finest institutions of higher learning, read and write at the level of above-average third graders.
If the so-called student-athletes ain’t learnin’ readin’, writin’, or cypherin’, then what the heck are they there for? The answer is obvious: they are there to increase their schools’ visibility, turn profits for their schools’ athletic departments, have erotic experiences with co-eds, and so on.
The mountebanks who masquerade as college administrators don’t care whether student-athletes graduate or learn how to write competently. All they care about is ensuring that their student-athletes remain eligible so that their teams make it to the postseason.
This is the context in which so many of the scandals in college football occur — and it’s why the outrage that accompanies these scandals always seems so ridiculous. So what if University of Florida center Maurkice Pouncey took $100k from a sports agent after the Gators’ regular season was over? He certainly earned the money by helping to keep quarterback Tim Tebow from getting injured. So what if a bunch of players are feted by agents? That’s the way it should be.
When people like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer talk about the predatory nature of college agents, it’s hard not to laugh. Predation is all these five-star recruits have ever known. Coaches, adults, and hangers-on kiss their asses from the time they play Pop Warner until the time there is no more money to be made from them. The whole spectacle would be enough to make me sick, assuming I could afford to put any food in my stomach.
A.G. Gancarski is a freelance journalist based in Florida.