Each morning, before I get on the train to work, I load my Twitter feed to get the morning's news. What's "news" for me from Twitter is often about sports. The sport I follow the closest is college football, with college basketball likely in a second-place tie with the NFL. With the buildup to and conclusion of the O'Bannon trial, many of the posts in that feed have shifted from "Big Ten Preaseason Power Rankings" or "X Player Has Michigan as a Finalist" to the dissection and dessimation of the structure of the NCAA. My opinion on the issue falls in line with what I perceive is a growing majority (although this may be affected by who I get my content from): whether or not we know the way to fix it, the system is broken, unfair, and difficult to legally and ethically justify.
But this diary is not a position statement on the merits of arguments that players should be paid or allowed to unionize. I start with the premise that the NCAA is broken and amateurism is a term used to maintain and justify a status quo in an operation that has become decidedly professional. I don't think Mark Emmert or Dave Brandon should get to have their wages determined in a free market (or set them themselves) and line their pockets while the kids driving revenue don't get that same opportunity. I don't think the backs of 18 year old kids, often from modest or even poor and dangerous upbringings are the places to yolk money carts for old white guys in suits. If you disagree with me, that's fine, but that's where I am coming from.
What I struggle with today, as the moorings and girters of the NCAA model stand to topple like dominos in Federal court (whether from O'Bannon's, Kessler's, or some other suit - I would argue radical change is almost certaint, and likely pretty imminent), is the role I play in this scheme. I open up an article from Grantland, EDSBS, or this site and nod my head in agreement when the writers eviscerate college administrators and the ludicrous arguments the NCAA has trotted out in defense of its system. Minutes later, I read a breakdown of 17 year old receiver who runs X 40 time with X high school stats committing to Michigan and pump my fist in excitement. I think it's borderline criminal that Denard Robinson and Trey Burke didn't see a nickel of their jersey sales, and yet I own both. I malign outrageous budgets for bowl committees and athletic deparments, then happily hand over my credit card for a game ticket or a $90 sweatshirt.
I think the best description of my feelings for Michigan Football, in particular, is a religion. I wrote this thing and called Michigan Stadium a cathedral, after all. I continue to love and believe in what Michigan Football and Basketball stand for. I attach my love to the stories of Brock Mealer and Quintin Washington, to hope there's a first time Austin Hatch takes the court for Michigan, and to John Beilein sitting by himself late into the night at the NBA Draft waiting for Jordan Morgan to get drafted. But for every virtue I celebrate, lately I cannot escape all of the system's vices. For every Denard Robinson success story, there is a Tate Forcier tale - without a full story I can't judge how much he is to blame for his transfer, regardless, I think it's pretty sad that Tate Forcier doesn't have one red cent to show for the brief period of time when tens of millions of people knew his name and were entertained by him. And there's plenty of kids with stories much sadder than his
I wrote this with the suspicion that others may feel similarly, and I truly wonder how to rationalize this dichotomy. I am excited for the feverish analysis and sense of possibility that fall camp will soon bring while I bemoan that former players deal with untreated medical problems or few job prospects because they were "tutored" through a bullshit major to keep them eligible. How am I not a hypocrite? Is this not my fault, too?