Talking Turkey About College Basketball

by STEVE CONN

On most Thanksgiving days in years’ past, and, for days thereafter, I would be behind one of the baskets in Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena at the Great Alaska Shootout. ESPN would televise some of these games, but, for the Alaskan fan, far removed by geography and pocketbook, the chance to watch the top teams (even with some obstruction) make eye contact with one another and perform in your lap was as exquisite an experience as watching a string quartet at close quarters. Then, I would skip the regular season, and watch some of these brilliant players I had observed closely at work during March Madness. I rooted for the teams at the bottom.

But now the Big Teams are not in Anchorage or in Fairbanks (where team demands of  $100,000 upfront ended the rival,  Midnight Sun event) and neither am I. Unknown schools like  Hampton University (formerly, Hampton Institute, a school founded to educate Indians and, then, former Virginia slaves), came north this Thanksgiving and played in the Shoot Out instead of Maryland, Georgetown, and all the other great ones. I grew up in Hampton and used the Hampton Institute’s integrated library with better books and no “colored” water fountains. I hope the players stayed warm.

I still love basketball the way the Mayan loved their ball games and the Romans loved their fights between men, women and animals. What they all have in common right up to the  game on ESPN you and I  just watched is the use of performing slaves. Millions of dollars  flow through the coffers of Big Time Sports and how much trickles down to the players on TV? Bupkes- now spelled correctly,( not, as in “ Dick”). Oh yes, college educations for free, but how many performers graduate or are, even, were intended to graduate?  Even back then, the “college kids” who played big time ball didn’t look like me. Some were older. All were bigger and many were darker. Most were poorer with poorer people at home than my folks, who were not rich. All hoped for a future beyond the unpaid farm team, called a University,  they now sustained. I was studying for my future while they practiced and performed for University as unpaid employees/

Sports stats are so dear to so many. So why can’t someone break down the revenue flow of a college team on television to figure out how some of that profit could end up in a deferred income account to let a college amateur take a profit at the end of his young run? Why not? Because it’s in nobody’s interest but the poor shlubs at the bottom of the food chain.

These are big-time schools with big time academics. The profs are smart,  write books,  have tenure and, even, miserably paid teaching assistants. Adjunct professors fill in the gaps for the glory of an institutional affiliation and for the love of teaching and let real profs do deep thinking. The administrators make crazy money and suck up to the trustees,  the legislators,  the rich alumni or whoever else hoses them down. How long can the NCAA and their members  play the game of setting up the rest of us,  including the struggling student body and the teaching assistants against the jocks to allow these national plantations to exploit the players on our television sets? Right now those players get the same pay as Sarah Palin’s turkey for more work. They get to strut and gobble for your viewing pleasure.

Maybe players should align themselves with turkeys and get support from PETA. Palin’s turkey-murder tape induced national moral outrage. How about a national union of  televised college athletes? Or competition among the leagues or schools to treat college players fairly with some level of profit-sharing? How about it, Colgate, Columbia and UCLA  (my schools)? How about it, University of Alaska Seawolves (my former workplace)?

College ballplayers on Thanksgiving Day are slaves in front of your eyes, not chain gangs or leased-out workers in some underground Alabama coal mine nobody told you about until lately. When do they get a cut, a fair share, a piece of the money pie?

Now,  have another slice of leftover Palin-or-Obama-style  turkey and think about it.

STEVE CONN lived in Alaska from 1972 until 2007. He is a retired professor, University of Alaska. His e mail is steveconn@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal