Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for September 2011

I Think I’m Done

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Last night Charity and I watched a young man take this brutal double hit to the head.  As his arms staid bizarrely up in the air, motionless even as he lay unconscious on the field I really wondered if I had just watched someone die on live TV.

After all my thinking about football this off-season, I had wondered what my reaction would be when the season started up.  I thought it would be like being around a lot of chocolate cake: tempting, yummy, and something that makes me feel guilty even as I really enjoyed it.

Instead I found out last night that I can’t enjoy it.  Between the permanent brain injuries caused by repeated head trauma, the culture that feeds into the football scene, and the economic exploitation of the young men that play I found that I couldn’t enjoy it.  My stomach turned.

As the people around me argued about whether he maintained control of the ball and scored a touchdown before he was knocked unconscious and carted of the field, I realized that I’m done.

Written by furthermusings

September 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Reflections

The Shame of College Sports

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Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and UNC grad Taylor Branch has an article titled “The Shame of College Sports” in this week’s Atlantic Monthly.

It’s a long, disturbing article.  A few of the main points that I picked out.

1) The hypocrisy of the NCAA prosecuting players for making money off of selling clothing given to them or taking small favors is spectacular, given that the NCAA is also selling the jersey at the same time.  The NCAA in these cases is more like a cartel protecting its own sales than a benevolent governing body looking out for the players.

2) The shadow court system of the NCAA is terrible.  The NCAA’s uneven enforcement of the rules enables them to bully the masses, give way to the important, and scapegoat the helpless.

3) “Free tuition” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  First, coaches have the right to cut under-performing players.  Shockingly (to me) NCAA basketball coaches cut 22% of their players after the 2008 school season.  The example from the story was of a senior who was one year short of graduating.  Now instead of a full ride he faced $35,000 in costs.  Second, students have no workers-comp right.  Unlike a normal buisness, where on the job injuries (like paralisis for instance) can result in lifetime benefits, any long-term injuries suffered on the field need not be compensated as the paralyzed player was not an employee.  He was just there for fun.

4) The NCAA deprives young men and women, schools, and teachers of due process.  Particularly horrifying (for a college professor) was how the NCAA banned all its member universities from hiring a particular instructor under threat of an intense audit (which is sure to find evidence of a violation of the NCAA’s several hundred page rule book).  The instructor in question allowed one player to type up another player’s written test answers and submit it online.  No plagiarism took place.  When it came to light, she resigned for the good of the program and fully cooperated with the NCAA’s investigation.  Nevertheless they blackballed her from academics.

5) The NCAA’s massive legal resources enable them to bully anyone who can’t summon the millions of dollars in lawyer fees that they can (like the poor woman mentioned above).  They do so with vengeance.

6) The founding myth of the “student-athlete” is powerful.  The term was created to keep universities from having give players the legal protections regular workers have.  It keeps its power in the legal world and the court of public opinion.  The term immediately conjures an image of students who are engaging hardy extra-curricular sport.  It doesn’t make one think of the money & pressure of big-time college sports.  These warp the student experience beyond anything most people would recognize.

It makes me wonder about the student athletes that I teach every week.  What are we, the university, asking of them?  What are we, as a society, taking from them?  Their rights and their health in exchange for a lot of money to the university and corporations and for our own entertainment?  Sounds broken to me.

Written by furthermusings

September 15, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Politics

To the Mountains!

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On this theme Charity and I drove 45 minutes up to Dupont State Forest in NC today.  I did some fresh water snorkeling (so, so cold) while Charity peered at the fish from the warm safety of the bank.

Afterwards, we sat on a rock in the middle of the river talking about how to settle into Greenville.  Do we make the university the center of our lives?  Downtown?  The little town near the university?  Which church do we join?  In all of this, how do we take into account that we may not be here in 10 months, or that we may be here 30 years?

On the way back we stopped at Caesar’s Head to admire the view (below).  We could see more than 30 miles and clearly see individual buildings in downtown Greenville.

I always want to be able to see that far in life.  What town will we live in next year?  What job will I have?  Will we have a child?  Will we be a part of a community where we love and are loved?

But we can’t.  That insurmountable fact requires either faith or fear.  Currently, thankfully, we’ve got both.

So for now we’re making a conscious effort to put ourselves in front of beautiful things, people we like, and to worship.  We’re planning and acting as wisely as we can.  And we’re praying that God will take us good places and convince us to worship Him wherever we land.

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September 12, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Hello Seattle (and Portland)

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One thing I enjoy about being an academic is traveling for conferences.  The big political science conference every year is over Labor Day, so while Charity travels to Minnesota to see her girl friends, for the last three years I’ve scampered off to Boston, DC, and now Seattle.

The conferences themselves are a varied mix of seeing professional colleagues and friends old & new, attending interesting (and dull) panels, and interviewing for various positions.  I enjoy talking to everyone but emotionally and physically they are exhausting.  I rarely feel as tired as the last night of one of these.

As an extrovert who loves to explore I tend to enjoy the cities they are in as well (when I get a chance to see them).  Seattle was great.  I staid at a B&B with a view from my room that, as you can see, was spectacular.   The space needle is just visible to the right.  During the day the Olympic mountains were visible over the Puget Sound.  The food was fantastic (French, Japanese, and the best dinner food I’ve ever had).  The weather perfect.  The people friendly.  I loved it.

After my presentation I went down to Portland to see Pete.  Over the previous eight years he’s staid enough nights at my house to compete with several college roommates for total time under the same roof.

He gives a mean tour of Portland.  One great meal followed another.  Sunday morning at Intown was nourishing, restful and worshipful.  Afterwards we drove up the Columbia River gorge.  Wow.


Portland is beautiful, and I mean beautiful.  To a garden nut like me the International Rose Test Garden is a wonder of the world.  Simply stunning.

Best of all, I got to see and to know the home of a great friend.  Still making me smile.

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September 10, 2011 at 8:57 pm


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I’ve realized that in order to learning to love this new place (which is very different from our old place) I need to find the things this place does well and go enjoy them.  The food may not be as good . . . but the lake is awesome.  So tonight we scurried out the door at 7pm with lawn-chairs, books, and hazelnut coffee (from Southern Season of course :-)), and drove down to the lake.

To our surprise, campus was lively.  Groups of college students sat by the lake chatting.  Bicycling families rolled by.  Couples lazily meandered from bench to bench chatting.  Families chased their small kids away from the edge, forgot about them, and then chased them again.   Just enough people around a big lake to make it feel lively and yet not so many that it felt crowded.

Twas good.  Good to get out of the house.  Good to be still and to read.  Good to enjoy something unique to where we are.

Written by furthermusings

September 10, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Pictures, Reflections