Equality. What does that mean? What does that mean in sports for men and for women? Is it merely the right for a woman and a man to be able to play the same sports? Is it really that cut and dry? Not exactly and here’s why. Continue reading GLMS: Girls League for Meaningful Sports
Lebron James, Dwayne Wayne, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce are all almost guaranteed NBA Hall of Fame inductees. These professionals are considered some of the best in NBA history and I had the honor of watching them play on January 10th, 2014. The game was electric, and the level of intensity was truly like that of no other game I’ve seen. Miami was lead by Lebron James who is considered to be one of the Top 5 players of all-time. He had the all-time leading 3-point shooter at his side in Ray Allen. Battling these stars were Kevin Garnett (14-time all-star, one-time defensive player of the year, one-time MVP) and Paul Pierce (10 -time all star and NBA Finals MVP).
Much later on, almost a year later I attended my first basketball game at the University of Michigan. The team played against Syracuse University on December 3rd, 2014 and defeated them in a very close game. I saw some great and young talent in players such as Caris Levert and Zac Irvin. I saw some exciting basketball, but it was a very intense game. The game had a close final score, but I didn’t really see it as a nail-bitter or a game that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Moreover, the crowd didn’t seem all that into it. Sure, there was the maize rage and some students in the stands but it certainly wasn’t packed by any means. Many seats on the floor were empty and it was relatively quiet for the most part. It wasn’t like the NBA game at all, and the differences between the professional and the amateur games couldn’t have been more evident.
Eric Dunning’s Dynamics of Modern Sport discusses the seriousness in professional sports in comparison to that in amateur sports. Dunning writes, “the success goal had come to take precedence in their hierarchy of sporting values over the goal of participating primarily for fun.” This was most applicable in the games that I saw. Granted, Dunning was talking about professional teams playing against amateur teams, the concept still applies. The professional game I saw was played with more seriousness and intensity than the Michigan game. It was a nail-bitter that was serious from the tip-off until the final seconds, while the Michigan game was more lackluster and lacked real intensity. The players in the Nets-Heat game that I saw were playing for everything. They were playing for their contracts, their pride and reputation as some of the greatest, their endorsement deals, the playoffs, their city, and their fans. One could argue that the Michigan and Syracuse players were playing for those things as well. In response I would say, they might have been, but not at the same level. And why? Because they’re just kids. Most haven’t even been in the conversation of being drafted to the NBA while some of the Heat and Nets players are being discussed as possible Hall of Fame players. The college basketball teams have a lot of room to mess up and still make the NCAA Tournament as over 65 teams compete in it. The players in the NBA have 8 spots to compete for. If the NBA players mess up what happens? They could lose future contracts and their jobs. What happens to the college players? They sit on the bench or are off the team but they still haven’t lost their occupation as their primary function in being at a university is still being a student. Furthermore, are players like Lebron and Kevin Garnett considered some of the greatest in the world? Yes. Are Caris Levert and Zach Irvin looked at in the same light? Not in the slightest. There is a such a discrepancy in talent that it is only natural for there to be differences in the seriousness that the game is played with. Additionally, there is much less room for error on the professional level. The laid back and lackluster nature of the college game was most evident by the Michigan basketball team giving up what at one point as a double-digit lead. The Nets vs. Heat game was back and forth the entire time and had almost every fan holding their breath. There is no question that there is a level of seriousness played with on the professional level that is naturally and inevitably lacking on the college level merely as a result of the different nature of the two different sporting levels and the difference in talent as well.
Dunning goes on to talk about the spectators and that when a large number of spectators attend a sporting event that it becomes a spectacle. The game is “played for the spectators and not the direct participants. Enjoyment from playing becomes subordinate to the production of crowd-pleasing moves.” This couldn’t be more applicable for the games that I witnessed this year. The Heat and the Nets played a nail-biting game with full intensity and one that when back and forth the entire time. You could see that there was such a high-level of intensity that the game was being played with and both teams seemed to want to win at all costs. That is what the crowd wants. They want the close game; they want the best basketball they’ve ever seen; they want the highest level of intensity possible. That is exactly what the two NBA teams gave them. On the other hand, the Michigan game didn’t draw as large of a crowd. The game went from one team having a decent size lead to the other having a decent size lead for most of the game. The kids were just having fun. They played with the fun and spontaneity that Dunning wrote about the professionals lacking. They made the cool dunks; they did the complex handshakes with one another; they smiled; they did things as they went. It was different for them and the crowd wasn’t nearly as big or as into the game as the NBA one. These guys played for fun and for themselves. They just went out and had some fun and won the game. They didn’t play with the same level of intensity that the Heat and Nets did and that’s because they’re amateurs. They are playing for fun; they are playing to be spontaneous; they’re playing with a lot less on the line.
Caris Levert and Zach Irvin are amateurs right? Yes. Lebron James and Kevin Garnett are professionals correct? Yes. That is the difference. There is no way to dispute that the games are simply different when the professionals are playing and when the amateurs are and I was able to witness it first hand. It wasn’t so evident to me at first, but after reading Dunning’s work on modern sports, the differences were most clear and most notable as well. The two are different, very different.
In 2010 the greatest player in the NBA, Lebron James, and two other superstars, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade teamed up on the Miami Heat via free agency trying to create the next great NBA dynasty. They didn’t create the dynasty in the most traditional manner though. It was a new method one that is very different. The question: is it a better one than the old model?
Josh Gordon, star NFL wide-receiver for the Cleveland Browns likes to smoke some weed, just like my good friend Charlie. No difference right? WRONG. Josh Gordon was suspended initially for the entire 2014 season for testing positive for marijuana. How much weed was found in his system? 16 NANOGRAMS. Similarly, my friend Charlie likes to smoke a little bit of weed himself , yet did he receive any suspension for doing so? No. Any trouble? No. And shouldn’t there be for him too as he committed the same wrong? Contrary to popular belief no, at least not according to philosopher John Stuart Mill.
“You have 95%of the guys that are doing it right, and then you have a small fraction of guys that just feel like, ‘Hey, this is the way I’m going to do it whether you like it or not,'” These are the words of University of Texas Head Coach Charlie Strong. Charlie Strong is in his first year as head coach and is implementing a set of rules to help control the nature of his players conduct.He is the ruler, and the all-powerful sovereign ruler over his players.
The state of nature exhibited by his young college football players is much like The Hobbesian state of nature, and one that requires Strong as the sovereign power to keep order on the team. Hobbes believes that in a state of nature every man is acting out of fear and acting with the interest of only themselves in mind. He writes, And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their end, (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only, )endeavour to destroy, or subdue one another.)” Well what do the football players desire? what is that that these young college boys want? They want to have a good time. They want to have fun. They want to explore and get the college experience. They want women. They want to relax and not go to class and play football. Why? Because they fear that if they don’t do so somebody else will do it. They fear that if their time is spent doing something like academics they could lose their position. They fear if they don’t do what it takes in their mind to have fun that somebody else will achieve that fun. They fear that if they don’t do what it takes to be with a particular woman somebody else would. These fears and these desires cause these players to act out. They end up doing drugs, not going to class, not paying attention in class, abusing women, abusing the rules, and so on and so forth. They march to their own drum out of fear of what may happen to their playing time, what they may miss out on, and what somebody else might attain. How does one fix it? How does one combat and deal with this state of nature?
A sovereign leader is the answer. According to Hobbes a sovereign leader who shows visible power to “keep his subjects in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants” Charlie Strong does keep his players in awe as he already dismissed 9 players before the entire season started. He instills fear and punishment in his players like no other and they abide to his rule. He lays down the law and simply focuses on winning. How does he do it? He laid out a list of rules for his players to abide by. Rule 3 states, ““If a player misses a class, he runs until it hurts. If he misses two classes, his entire position unit runs. If he misses three, the position coach runs. The position coaches don’t want to run.” These players have a covenant with the team to play football but they also have a commitment to go to class as they are at a higher-level educational institution. They cannot miss out on class out of a desire to be doing something else or of fear of doing so would take away from other things such as football. Rule 4 states, ““No earrings in the football building. No drugs. No stealing. No guns. Treat women with respect.”” These young men have a covenant with the team, university, and the law not to do drugs, and to treat women with respect. They cannot be left to act as they would in the state of nature. In acting out of fear as the players seemed to do in order to obtain desires in competition with others is wrong in and of itself. It is important that they act with order and maintain respectful human behavior as acting as one would in the state of nature is simply unacceptable and something that needs to be controlled.
Charlie Strong and his rules are needed in order to prevent what some players would do in the state of nature and on-top of that maintain order among the players, Hobbe’s world consists of rule breaking, acting out of fear and to obtain personal desires. In order to keep order and control a sovereign power is needed and that is what Strong serves as. He very much resembles an all powerful sovereign power and is the answer to helping prevent these issues that arise with young individuals especially athletes and is the reason that there is order on the team.
It’s all about winning in the NFL. Winning is everything to the coach, to the players, to the fans, and to the organization. The pride, the excitement, the hype, the unexplainable feeling that comes with winning, it all seems to be priceless. Does winning fix all? Is everything okay as long as the team is winning? Yes, just ask Jim Harbaugh.