The recent passing of the legendary collegiate sports analyst and journalist Beano Cook and his words cracked the scars of a few old wounds for me. Decades ago when Beano was asked why he loved college football he responded, “Why do I love college football? The Passion. A lot of us who follow college football are like Walter Mitty. We dream of being the Saturday hero. On Sundays they play for money. On Saturdays they play for passion, for the love of the game. I think that’s why it’s our greatest sport. When people study this civilization 10,000 years from now, historians are going to be baffled about why more people followed pro football than college.
“They are going to decide that it was a weakness of this civilization that more people wanted to watch pro football on Sundays rather than college on Saturdays. Many things have changed about the game during my lifetime but one thing that hasn’t changed is the passion.” Now get this. There were many Saturday heroes from the college football ranks that ended up being Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday zeros. Those whofailed to make the grade were tossed out with the trash.
Why should college football be considered America’s greatest just because the student athletes play for free? Now I agree with the premise that not all student athletes are deserving of pay but the marquee players that fill the stadiums and motivate their alumni to loosen up their purse strings and take the locks off their wallets should be able to enjoy the spoils.
According to the website of the NCAA; “The percentage of Black athletes playing football for Division 1 colleges and universities was more than 45 percent during the 2010-2011 season. The 2011-12 TIDES report on bowl-bound FBS teams found that the average graduation success rate for White football student athletes is 81 percent on bowl-bound teams, while standing at only 61 percent for Black student athletes.” Lets dig a little deeper boys and girls. Take for example the food vending giant Aramark. They serve over 48 university sports stadiums and profit hundreds of millions of dollars. If they gave away their products and had their people give those products away would they continue to be in business? Hell no! Would people come to work for them for nada, negative? Would the factories that supplied them do so for zilch, I can’t go for that; no can do?
Would Aramark be considered the greatest food vendor in history if they gave away their product, nope and no, they would be considered either extremely philanthropic or just plain dumb. Beano also said that “a lot of us that follow college football are like Walter Mitty.” Do you know who the fictitious character Walter Mitty is and what beliefs that his character encompassed?
The “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was written by James Thurber and it first appeared in The New Yorker on March 18, 1939. The name Walter Mitty and the derivative word “Mittyesque” have entered the English language, denoting an ineffectual person who spends more time in heroic daydreams than paying attention to the real world, or more seriously, one who intentionally attempts to mislead or convince others that he is something that he is not. Writer Maria Bustillos posted an article on theawl.com in September 2012 laying out her historical observations about author James Thurber. Bustillos said that, “Thurber was a depressive and nervous guy, forever uncertain of himself and his place in the world, though he achieved worldwide fame in his lifetime. Much has been written about Thurber's racism, narrow-mindedness but I view him as the product of his times. Despite the essential darkness of Thurber's character, his subtle optimism is ever-present, like a thread of gold shot through the fabric of all he wrote. Racism: what are we to make of the race consciousness of a man who found nearly everyone, including himself, a little bit scary and weird?”
When a group of people, any group of people become nervous and unsure about themselves like Thurber they have to invent reasons that they are superior. Yet, they will almost always present a false opinion and observation about themselves to those on that they consider superior. The character of Walter Mitty may have been a figment of the imagination of James Thurber but racism and narrow-mindedness to be alive and well in American society as well as in the system of our nation’s college athletics and academics. I hate to say goodbye to Beano Cook but I’ll darn sure be glad when Walter Mitty and his disciples fall by the wayside.
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