Here’s a big one; and one of her favorites: All her life she’s heard and read pragmatic reality-based broad-shouldered boots on the ground straight-talking university sports enthusiast types ridicule humanities types as pie in the sky dreamers, limp-wristed do-nothing childish emotional deluded obscurantists jabbering pointlessly away in empty jargon.

Yet from the moment, ten years ago, she began attending NCAA and NCAA-related conferences, and heard one speaker after another intone words like integrity and principle to complacent audiences, UD has recognized that these NCAA words have exactly the same value as words like (counter-) hegemonic, imbrication, and modalities among certain groupings of English professors.

Hollow abstractions prop up both groups as they struggle to maintain a sense not only that they are united, but that they are not marginal, not incorrect in their beliefs, and – in the case of the NCAA crowd – not corrupt.


Of the two groups, which is the more pitiable? The more deluded? Foucauldian academics occasionally score a meaningful cultural intervention; their efforts to radicalize the academy have had an impact. The NCAA crowd is caught in the eternal recurrence of win/loss, with winning as meaningless as losing.

“[S]o many colleges have bent the rules in the great academic act of winning meaningless football and basketball games,” writes Buzz Bissinger of his initial reaction to the University of Miami story, “that it was hard for me to muster much excitement.”

It is not only the ultimate meaninglessness of their endeavor – a meaninglessness made more acute by its location within that most ardently meaning-generating institution, the university – that the NCAA crowd must shield itself from; it is its filth. Few people, beyond sociopaths like Bernard Madoff and Nevin Shapiro, want to think of themselves as corrupt, but hundreds of NCAA administrators and NCAA-governed coaches, university presidents, and players certainly know that they are corrupt, that they play important parts in a corrupt system, if only by looking the other way when coaches and agents and fans and players around them are corrupt.

Bissinger argues that Miami football is so corrupt that the program should be permanently killed, and Donna Shalala

should be hauled before Congress, where the allegations against Miami are 10 times more serious than all the steroid nonsense paraded about in Washington.

Once she has done her murky dance of denial, a grand jury should be convened. If it turns out she did know the outrageous conduct of booster Nevin Shapiro — such as filling virtually an entire hotel floor with prostitutes for Miami players to gorge on, like grapes — she should be charged with perjury.

But… eh. She knew and she didn’t know. You know? It’s what I’ve been saying. She kind of knows that the games are meaningless and the people running them are disgusting… but a palm-lined campus is such a beautiful thing lalalalala. Pitiable.

Cam Newton is such a beautiful thing. A $2.2 billion contract with ESPN is such a beautiful thing. Pitiable.

And today, as always, these pitiable deluded people are the talk of the town.

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5 Responses to “UD likes paradoxes.”

  1. francofou Says:

    Well, we have always believed that the purpose of higher education was the formation of tomorrow’s elite. We got some categories mixed up, that’s all. Once you understand what kind of formation and what kind of elite, things become clear and we can see that universities are in fact doing a fine job.

  2. Joe Fruscione Says:

    Although the “very unique circumstances” quote hurts my ears, this is an interesting piece on the NCAA’s “death penalty” option for the “U”:

  3. Matt L Says:

    I dunno UD, aren’t you being a little harsh on the Foucauldians by lumping them with the NCAA? After all, I’ve never heard of a Foucauldian making gobbs of money or seen one plied with hookers and blow to sign a lucrative job contract at the MLA. (Besides, they had their thing in the 1990s. I like Foucault and all, but he’s soo 20th century…)

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Matt L: I agree with all of the above. I just needed a collection of humanities types my readers were likely to recognize…

  5. DM Says:

    C’mon, don’t all organizations, professional societies etc. hold meetings where zero-content speeches are given, applauded and soon forgotten?

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