Ignorance is Strength: America’s Sports Mania

Ignorance is Strength[1]. Far from just the slogan of the Party in 1984, it might as well be the slogan for the sports industrial complex around the world.

Maybe ignorance is just more fun.

Because all it takes is a little peek behind the curtain and it gets a lot harder to watch the NCAA, the NFL, the Olympics, any of it.

How do you watch (and support) the NCAA, where the loan of a used car is used by the Ohio State athletic director to punish Maurice Clarett, a young man who dared to try and profit from his hard work and prodigious talent? It wasn’t Ohio State’s rules that served as the justification to take away a promising football career from a young man who’d worked really hard and overcome plenty of obstacles to have one. It wasn’t the fact that he’d endured a very painful freshman year and played well enough (while hurt) to lead them to a national title. It was the NCAA who was complicit in an investigation the university started itself at the request of Andy Geiger.

And if you take the time to figure out who Andy Geiger was and the decisions he had to make to try and thread the needle of protecting Ohio State (and himself) and dealing with this Clarett guy who was spilling the beans about all the broken rules and shady deals[2]keeping the Ohio State football team in business, it gets a bit more difficult to just sit back, drink a cold one and enjoy watching Ohio State play Michigan and pretend that these are “student-athletes” playing for pride or out of their loyalty to their respective programs.

Ignorance is way more fun.

Know the name Grigory Rodchenkov[3]? Ever heard of Bryan Fogel[4]or the Haute Route[5]? If you like watching the Olympics and cheering for these amazing humans who do such remarkable things, you may want to be sure you never find out anything about those guys or the race that Fogel entered to see if he could compete with the top few after engaging in a rigorous training program including the pharmacological aids he is sure the others are using. You should probably ignore the testimony of Rodchenkov, just accept the Russian-sponsored narrative that he was a crazy guy[6], motivated by revenge, ignore that his testimony and the evidence he revealed shows not only that the Russian Federation was doping its athletes across a whole range of sports but that they’d been doing it for decades.

The simple story of athletes from one country triumphing over those from another based on talent and hard work and all those human interest pieces on NBC is a lot less fun when you know that certain countries help their athletes get the right drugs and beat the tests and in other countries the athletes are on their own to get the good stuff and know when to come off and all the other tricks. Makes it a bit less exciting when you know the fix is in.

Knowledge is annoying, ignorance is strength.

Because ignorance means you can cheer whole-heartedly, unabashedly. There’s no need for a more cynical approach, knowing that money and politics and a host of other things influence that “simple” game and that certain rules apply to some athletes and not others. Ignorance means you can look down from your high horse when that evil man or woman makes the choice to cheat and gets caught, you don’t have to wonder about why they did it or who else is doing it or why their positive result got made public when Lance’s[7][8] wasn’t.

Ignorance means you can enjoy what these athletes do between the lines and on the TV and ignore everything else. You don’t have to worry about whether they actually get a degree or what happens after that poor kid gets carted off the field with a shredded knee that means not only that his season is over but maybe so is his scholarship[9], and with it his only chance to get a degree. You don’t have to worry about whether your favorite safety from the Chicago Bears killed himself[10] because of his willingness to sacrifice his body (and his head) to make the big hits that you loved watching in the 80s and 90s.

Knowledge gets in the way of dogmatic positions. Ignorance keeps it nice and simple.

Ignorance means you can pine for sports to go back to the way it was without all this nonsense about politics and protesting the anthems and that players can just be grateful for the opportunities they have to make money playing a game. Playing a game for crying out loud! You can ignore that politics in sports started the same time as doping in sports that started the same time as, well, as sports. Ignorance means you can ignore that the first Olympics was just as dirty as the most recent Olympics.

You can forget that our current NFL-supporting president sued the NFL in an attempt to force a merger with his league, the USFL, knowing that the tax exemptions and other public supports for the NFL would make him far richer as the owner of a franchise than the USFL which enjoyed far fewer public subsidies.

Ignorance is strength.

Ignorance allows us to ignore what might be one of the worst effects of sports mania in the United States. Are we surprised that somewhere around half a million teenagers are using anabolic steroids[11]and growth hormones? Is it any wonder that a number of these kids kill themselves in the midst of the hormonal and emotional crash[12]associated with the cessation of these drugs? When they watch their heroes on the football field or somewhere else and they see their incredible bodies and feats of strength and aspire to the same[13], is it any wonder that they quickly find a way to obtain and use the drugs they believe will help them overcome not just physical limitations but their insecurity and self doubt as well? But ask any local police department, almost any high school administrator or coach and they will likely be shocked at the scope of the problem. Because ignorance is strength.

Until it isn’t.


[1]“Nineteen Eighty-Four – Wikipedia.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

[2]“Clarett Accuses Ohio State of N.C.A.A. Violations – The New York Times.” 10 Nov. 2004, https://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/10/sports/ncaafootball/clarett-accuses-ohio-state-of-ncaa-violations.html. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

[3]“Grigory Rodchenkov – Wikipedia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigory_Rodchenkov. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

[4]“Bryan Fogel – IMDb.” https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2406731/. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

[5]“Haute Route.” https://www.hauteroute.org/. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

[6]“‘Grigory Rodchenkov confused his own evidence while testifying in ….” 24 Jan. 2018, https://www.rt.com/sport/416890-grigory-rodchenkov-evidence-cas/. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

[7]“Armstrong Tested Positive for Steroids Four Times in 1999 Tour ….” 17 Apr. 2013, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-04-17/armstrong-tested-positive-for-steroids-four-times-in-1999-tour. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

[8]“How Lance Armstrong Never Tested Positive – Business Insider.” 10 Oct. 2012, https://www.businessinsider.com/how-lance-armstrong-never-tested-positive-2012-10. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

[9]“‘I Trusted ‘Em’: When NCAA Schools Abandon Their Injured Athletes ….” 1 May. 2013, https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/05/i-trusted-em-when-ncaa-schools-abandon-their-injured-athletes/275407/. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

[10]“Before Shooting Himself, Duerson Asked That His Brain Be Studied ….” 19 Feb. 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/sports/football/20duerson.html. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

[11]“Steroids: As American as apple pie | Health | phillytrib.com.” 17 Mar. 2015, http://www.phillytrib.com/news/health/steroids-as-american-as-apple-pie/article_ce88f4d3-cc70-5c0d-9aa7-081fe8ac7a26.html. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

[12]“What are the risks of anabolic steroid use in teens? | National Institute ….” 21 Feb. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/steroids-other-appearance-performance-enhancing-drugs-apeds/what-are-risks-anabolic-steroid-use-in-teens. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

[13]“Are Steroids as ‘American as Apple Pie’? : NPR.” 12 Jun. 2008, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91432799. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

OH-….   I lost interest in the Olympics a long time ago. College Football has never been as interesting to me as basketball or NFL football – which is losing its savor due to the concussions/injuries/gladiator thing. There once was a guy named Jim Thorpe….