This business of disgust – it’s intriguing. Filthy university football and basketball programs can go along for years – decades – and none of the sickening elements ever gather into one, fully realized, disgusting, Thing.

Each season has its gangs, its guns, its gruesome coaches and gutless trustees, its tailgate trash and post-game riots, its homicidal hazers… Each campus has adjacent streets lined with bars that choke freshmen with cheap beer until they stagger up, piss themselves, and go outside to drown … None of it is strong enough to gather to a Thing, to disgust people. Certainly the financial and academic destruction of universities for the sake of a few yearly games in half-empty stadiums fails to rise to disgust.

For disgust to happen, you need a couple of things. You need a sense, as Buzz Bissinger says, that you’re in a culture, that these things are connected, can be gathered into a full reality. You need to consider that your school may be rather like Penn State, where football was more important than the well-being of children.

But no – you’re not like that! And neither, if you talk to Penn State diehards, is Penn State. It was just a few people, a few bad men…

You need, also, to have a rudimentary sense of what a university is. If you have this sense, you know that virtually every aspect of big-time university football represents a direct attack on the institution. Mindless, greedy, booze-fueled, violent, stoking dangerous cult loyalties — we’re describing the compleat anti-university, a weapon aimed directly at calm, humane, rational, independent thought.

In its scathing editorial about the lawsuit Pennsylvania’s governor has brought against the NCAA (a disgusting organization, but there’s nowhere non-disgusting to go here), the New York Times writes:

In his complaints, the governor only confirmed the inquiry finding that the university’s obsession with football predominance helped drive the cover-up of Mr. Sandusky’s crimes. Mr. Corbett extolled football’s “economic engine” and bemoaned the “diminution in value of the Penn State educational and community experience” because it relied, he emphasized, “in part on the prominence of the Penn State football program.”

Let us have it back again! says the governor. We’re not a university; we’re a sports cult, and our bars are hurting.

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4 Responses to ““[T]he sickening importance of the culture of college football.””

  1. David Says:

    Thanks for commenting on this. Both of my kids are proud — yes, proud — PSU alums and I was a member of the faculty for 15+ years. Our family knows that Penn State is not Jerry Sandusky or the damn football team. Wish the pointy headed PA governor would realize that.

  2. GTWMA Says:

    Can I simultaneously be appalled at the events at Penn State and believe that the actions of the NCAA were hypocritical grandstanding that showed little regard for its own rules and procedures and abuse of its power in a dangerous precedent setting way?

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:


  4. Jack/OH Says:

    ” . . . [T]he compleat anti-university, a weapon aimed directly at calm, humane, rational, independent thought.”

    You’re saying aloud what a lot of us, I believe, are privately thinking about the academy.

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