Some Student Athletes Get Mopeds (and Other Things I Learned from the LSA Theme Semester)

Attending two theme semester events – The Boxing Girls of Kabul, and Women in University Sports – left me disappointed with my athletic prowess and hungry for No Thai. Being the broke college student I am, I settled for boxed macaroni, hoping to find a blog topic in my SpongeBob shaped noodles. Instead, all I found was that, according to Kraft, I am a family of 4. And I was still really salty that student athletes got free clothes and mopeds….

THEY SEE ME ROLLIN' THEY HATIN' - THEY SEE ME ROLLIN' THEY HATIN'  MOPED MANPictured: Student Athlete on way to class at Ross

There have historically been, and still are, a lot of barriers to current women entering sports at U of M which begs the question: why play? Yes, there are practices every day, not as many scholarships as male athletics, games every weekend and lower funding and support, but women sports teams still draw a fair amount of dedicated players. But why, when the work is so great and the benefits so small? This actually was the focus of my once a week existential crisis. (last week’s was about the social conventions of hair and hairstyles) And, in an attempt to anticipate the questions running through your head, no, I am not a student athlete. Far from it actually: I avoid healthy food like the plague and the only “running” I participate in is of the “late” variety. However, I participate in a demanding university team: the Forensics Speech and Debate team, which receives very little funding, is completely student ran, travels almost every weekend by way of team members’ cars, and practices quite a bit each week (granted most is self directed practice). We receive no scholarships of any kind for this, so many of our members work an additional 15 – 20+ hours a week in addition to full course loads and other student orgs. We do, however, consistently send members to the national collegiate championship, receiving 8th overall in our division last year. So I feel like I can (very slightly) empathize with student athletes who are trying to balance school, social life, their team, and enough to sleep to stave off death by exhaustion. So why are student athletes so willing to sacrifice sleep, sanity, and precious Netflix time to play a sport that, in the case of women athletes, often unappreciated? Furthering the significance of this question was the documentary, Boxing Girls of Kabul, which follows Afghan women as they train for the 2012 Olympics, overcoming adversity and even risking their own lives for a sport they love.

BAZINGA, Huizinga might have my answer. In Homo Ludens, he writes that play isn’t just fun and games. “You can deny seriousness, but not play,” he says, arguing that play grants intrinsic value and creates important rituals and culture within our society. Basically we need play for the intrinsic satisfaction it gives us. Athletes play sports, perhaps partially for the monetary and moped benefits, but also because they love the game. Something with very little effect or impact on the rest of their life (College education, future career, etc) becomes something so important and vital because it’s how they play, and play is necessary. That’s why athletes bust butt everyday- the same reason I endure the twice-monthly breakdown that comes with devoting myself to forensics. It’s fun, it’s a game, it’s play. And play is necessary…

But a free moped doesn’t hurt either!

Featured image

Not Pictured: The cut-throat competitiveness and sheer athleticism required to deliver a speech at 7:30am.

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5 thoughts on “Some Student Athletes Get Mopeds (and Other Things I Learned from the LSA Theme Semester)

  1. I loved the way you tackled the theme assignment. I have to agree that the power of play has the most powerful hold on our atheletes, even a debator like yourself.

    It’s funny the way play can be different to so many people, but must be employed by every person in their own way. Even I look at the atheletes on the U of M campus and wonder how they balance their lives, but remember that they take on the loads of work and time commitment because it is their version of play. And we all need to play.

    Good post.

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    1. Very good post. We all need to play a little bit, as it is healthy and actually quite important. However, at Michigan, the athletes are, in a sense, required to play and play hard.

      It is tough to balance class, homework, practice, weights, film, and games but all of this is well worth it because our ‘play’ is pretty special.

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  2. I thought this was a very interesting post. Even though there was not much about the theme semester events, I did like how you related it to Huzinga. I think that, unfortunately, nowadays there are too many athletes that are playing a sport for the wrong reasons, like just wanting to play in order to get to the next level. I liked how you opened up my mind to thinking about the other athletes on campus that are not involved in revenue sports, and the hard work that they endure everyday. It was also nice that you related it too non-athletes because it makes one truly think about why people are willing to go through so much extra stress in order to achieve something that may not help them in the future. This has made me really consider the fact that a majority of athletes probably do play or participate in their sport for the love of the game, rather than moped benefits.

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    1. I really enjoyed reading this post and thought it addressed some valid points. As an athlete at U of M, I think there is the argument that we play for money, a scholarship worth a quarter of a million dollars, but I don’t know if that would be enough to make us do something we don’t love doing.

      I will tell you this: my athletic career and my life was nearly taken from me 3 and 1/2 years ago, but being a part of the basketball team, although my role is limited, has been absolutely amazing.

      The free meals, the gear, and the other benefits are nice, but I don’t think that should be, nor is it the athlete’s motivation, to play the game. However, I’m not sure many athletes would play their sport here if they weren’t compensated.

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  3. I thought your position on the semester theme was very well put. I happen to be taking a class this semester (History 197) that tackles the important question of whether or not student athletes should be paid and if their benefits outweigh their workload. In my opinion, the workload that both student athletes and extracurricular participants like yourself take on exemplifies the love many people feel for their “game”. They choose to take on that commitment to participate because it is what they love to do, and for them it is worth it to “play”. I enjoyed reading this post and think your position was very well stated.

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