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The farcical grift that is contemporary college football

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Here’s a nice little illustration of how perverted the world of big time college athletics has become (This means football and men’s basketball, the only two sports that produce significant revenue. That revenue, however, is now several billion dollars per year).

The flagship state universities of Nebraska and Illinois were scheduled to play a football game yesterday . . . in Dublin, Ireland. The game got rescheduled to Urbana-Champaign because of the COVID pandemic, but never fear: Nebraska is now scheduled to play Northwestern in Dublin next August 27th.

Lets consider some of the ways in which this one little fact throws light on the absurdities of this sport.

(1) Both universities started their fall semesters last week, which means that a couple of hundred “student-athletes” were supposed to spend several days at the very beginning of their semester flying several thousand miles back and forth across six and seven time zones in order to engage in what is technically an extra-curricular activity.

(2) I’m pretty sure the level of interest in American college football on the Emerald Isle can be described accurately as non-existent. I imagine it would be difficult to even describe to people outside of North America what big time American college sports even are, as nothing like this — a multi-billion dollar professional sport in which the players are unpaid — exists anywhere else. (I realize the NFL now flies teams to London two or three times a year for games, but at least that exercise has some potential economic rationale, in the form of trying to nurture a market for NFL football in the UK and Europe.)

(3) The previous point illustrates what’s really going on here, which is that a bunch of university administrators and other hangers-on want a “free” European junket, partially on the tab of ESPN and Aer Lingus and whoever else is ponying up to help cover the costs of this adventure.

(4) Of course what makes all this work, besides the bottomless need of the television networks for cheesy “exotic” content, is the fact that none of the players who provide the labor for this multi-billion dollar industry get paid in anything other than increasingly worthless company scrip.

This is fortunately about to change, as the legal system has at long last decided to treat the oligopolies that are pulling in these billions of dollars as if they are oligopolies pulling in billions of dollars rather than, as they prefer to present themselves, charitable enterprises that wish to mold the hearts and minds of the scholar-athletes entrusted to their care.

(5) In an age of an ongoing climate crisis, the recklessness of this kind of wholly unnecessary jet travel hardly needs to be emphasized, although that factor is regularly ignored by everyone involved.

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