Archive for Saturday, January 19, 2013

Simons’ Saturday Column: Focus on sports, athletes has gotten out of whack

January 19, 2013

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The number of news stories this week focusing on sports-related matters should be of concern to far more individuals than is the case.

Has “sports” become the No. 1 interest of the American public with other terribly important subjects, programs and individuals relegated to minor-league status?

High achievers in sports are elevated as national heroes, and their endorsement of most any kind of product is financially rewarding to the athlete and is supposed to boost the sales of the product being promoted. The activities, accomplishments and even the private lives of these athletes attract far more attention than the achievements of others in far more important careers, such as education, health care, scientific research, public service, etc.

Is it a case of the public being more interested in being entertained than in dealing with reality and far more serious matters?

Earlier this week, Lance Armstrong, for years a national and international hero and an inspiration to millions fighting cancer, admitted he used banned drugs to help him achieve amazing successes in bicycle racing.

Admirers and fans of one of the “stars” of this past collegiate football season, Notre Dame player Manti Te’o, are confused and puzzled by the disclosure that his supposed, high-profile romance and love for a young lady with cancer and the death of this woman in the middle of the football season, was a phony, fake concoction. This, too, became front-page news.

Tiger Woods, one of the world’s greatest golfers and perhaps still a hero to many, was page-one news not long ago for his extramarital affairs and subsequent divorce. Now, the Woods story is front page again as readers learn he would like to remarry his former wife and is offering $200 million if she will say “yes.” She has countered and says she would consider the offer if he would add a $350 million “anti-cheating” clause to the deal.

Another story this week reported public universities competing in NCAA Division I sports spend incredibly more to educate athletes than to educate nonathlete students. In the Big 12 Conference, Kansas University’s conference, the report shows per-student spending in 2010 was $13,988 for nonathletes and $131,286 for athletes. Does this bother anyone — the Kansas Board of Regents, alumni or parents of nonathlete students? How about the faculty?

A continuing big story at KU and in Lawrence is the huge, projected cost of a new multimillion-dollar track stadium, soccer field, softball field and recreation center featuring eight basketball courts planned for the northwest corner of the city. Added to this will be the cost of taking out the track at Memorial Stadium, lowering the field and adding seats, plus some unidentified renovations at Allen Fieldhouse.

Sports and athletic competition is good and a healthy exercise. There are many positives associated with competitive sports, but, unfortunately, “sports” is becoming more of a business, a multimillion-dollar business, where winning and being No. 1 is what’s important.

Sports bring enjoyment to millions of spectators and fans, as well as millions of participants in organized programs from grade school to college, professional teams and recreational sports for people of all ages.

A lot of people talk about trying to curb many of the excesses in the supposedly amateur college sports scene. University chancellors and presidents, for example, could blow the whistle on many excesses, but they, too, want their teams to win and generate alumni enthusiasm, so they turn their heads in order to field winning teams that sell tickets and please generous contributors.

Where will it end?

Some are sure to say newspapers, television, radio and magazines all are at least partially to blame for giving so much attention to sports. This is probably true. Look at the attention given earlier this week to the condition of KU’s star basketball player, Ben McLemore, when he fell to the floor in front of 16,300 fans plus millions of television viewers pounding the floor in supposed pain and perhaps lost for the rest of the season.

No matter where the finger of blame may be pointed, it seems priorities are out of balance. Sports and competitive athletics can be good and healthy but they also can be, and frequently are, costly and overemphasized.

Comments

btsflk 2 years, 3 months ago

Just sports? Take a broader look around. Our society's priorities are out of whack from top to bottom.

Maybe it's something in the water. And there IS much in the water.

Another example of whacked priorities.

down_the_river 2 years, 3 months ago

When the admissions requirements are raised at KU, setting a higher academic standard for incoming students, will those requirements apply to athletes? Or is there a special exemption for "needed" students?

Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 3 months ago

The largest section in the daily Simons-published newspaper is the Sports section.

The heaviest traffic on the Simons-published website goes to KUSports.com.

Put your money where your mouth is.

alex_delaney 2 years, 3 months ago

Well said. Since so many Simon articles have been published with a negative stance about the Rock Chalk Park project and the underlying negative personal relationship with Fritzels, one must wonder if the local paper is being leveraged.

Phillbert 2 years, 3 months ago

This from the man whose newspaper sends more people to cover a basketball game in Texas than it sends to cover the Legislature in Topeka. Cry me a river.

KiferGhost 2 years, 3 months ago

Sports are corrupting the academic mission of the university. Too much money involved and we got a good taste of how fast things can go wrong when Hemenway spent a mint hiring big daddy. Privatize sports, move it off campus, get it out of here. Sell it to Fritzel and Compton and let them play out in west Lawrence on the zebra farm and the Fritzelplex minus city involvement. Let them play, let them show us how great are as businessmen by fully funding these things without tax dollars. Same with the pro teams. It is time to say enough and people can take up tiddlywinks, chess, backgammon instead of living pathetically through their sport team alma mater or worse dressing up in the awful chief garb.

TikiLee 2 years, 3 months ago

Ironic, then, isn't it? When I logged on to the LJWorld mobile website, the overwhelming majority if "top news" stories were sports-focused. You can't push drugs and complain that everyone's an addict.

Munchener 2 years, 3 months ago

Finally a Dolph Simon's editorial with which I can agree (whether his paper makes him look like a hypocrite or not).
KiferGhost is right - privatize bigtime athletics and move it off campus. If their employees (i.e. the athletes) want to take classes they can, but they would not have to do so. Let the privatized athletic corporation rent the KU name and pay royalties to the university, which will mean more money for academics than the university currently gets from the athletic corporation. Is it possible to rearrange university priorities? Not as long as chancellors and others think that the athletic corporation and its supporters are more important than academics and all those alumni who really don't care that much about big time sports. If the latter group of alumni, which I suspect is much larger than does the Chancellor, announced their intention to withhold any future contributions to the university until the priorities are straightened out, then something might happen.

George_Braziller 2 years, 3 months ago

Dolph look at your own newspaper. It has dwindled to nothing more than a sports section with some news attached by necessity.

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