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(Real) Pay for Play

Part of the reason I’m so unproductive during the first quarter of the year is because of sports.  The NFL Playoffs are quickly followed by March Madness, which is followed by the NBA Playoffs.  I do most of my work during the summer when baseball season is well underway.  Watching nine innings of baseball on television has never been my idea of a good time.  Anyway, the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is officially in the record books.  Although my Boilers have survived, thanks to Kansas and Georgetown, my bracket looks like a window during L.A. Riots: busted.  I’m still waiting for Duke to choke.  Though it doesn’t make up for the refs not ejecting Laettner, there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching Coach K. smugly accept defeat.  (Has Duke ever recruited a [black] ballplayer who was not from a two-parent home and ostensibly solidly middle class?’)

Despite my overall enthusiasm for the tourneys, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to turn off my inner social critic during this year’s sports playoffs season.  After the Super Bowl, I had planned to go on and on about the plantation model and sports, but then New Orleans won.  I didn’t want to rain on their parade; the last thing New Orleans needs is rain–symbolic or not.  But the NCAA doesn’t have such stories–at least, none that I’m aware of–so it seems the perfect time to ask (again): Why can’t these kids get paid?

Appearances in these tournaments generate considerable money for these schools.  Furthermore, the increased publicity often leads to more applicants.  It wouldn’t be surprising if Northern Iowa all of a sudden saw a deluge of applications from high school seniors after stunning Kansas, the overall number one seed, this weekend.  Despite the exposure due solely to the basketball team, the players who comprise it won’t see any bump.  The school and the league they represent will, though.

Perhaps creating a system where student-athletes receive a decent wage would help eliminate some of the corruption in big time college sports.  Maybe a livable salary would keep some athletes from taking thousands of dollars from college boosters, which the NCAA frowns upon.  I’m sure the institution could come up with a system that treated its athletes more fairly.

That said, long live the Fab Five.