And there’s no better field for play in this regard than big time university sports.
Here’s some wonderful writing from Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky, about Auburn’s rapidly-tarnishing Saint Cam Newton:
We expect a certain level of stupidity from our athletes. We accept that they’re going to have tons of personal tutoring help, up-to-and-including people writing their papers for them. Hell, it’s college; we expect kids of all kinds to cheat. But to get caught [as Newton did] indicates a stupidity that we just can’t accept. This, and nothing else, is sullying our notion of the student-athlete!
It’s a joke, of course. There’s an All-SEC Academic Team, and being on it doesn’t tend to improve a player’s draft stock. ESPN College GameDay doesn’t go to Knoxville or Baton Rouge or Tuscaloosa for finals week to cover the due date for term papers. We all know these kids are there to play football, and we’re there to watch them, and all we ask them is to make the slightest effort in preserving the illusion of academia mattering. We know they don’t care, but we’re all content to live in our giant happy Moon Bounce, oblivious to anything beyond the bizarre artificial creation that is college athletics. And we get mad when someone pops it.
I like Petschesky’s evocation of the surreality of big time college athletics, since that is what has struck me the most in my years of covering it. I like just as much his point about the fragility of this giant creation, the way it can suddenly be made to explode in our faces, and the way this reality-explosion angers us. Humankind cannot stand very much reality, says Eliot; and indeed fewer sights are more intense, and intensely strange, than university sports figures and fans forced to reckon with the reality of their false and sordid world.
Burst their bubble at your peril.
[UD thanks Dave for the link.]