[Note to Readers: With this last wonder of a “sports” piece, Tomdispatch shuts down until the final turkey squawks. Back at the beginning of next week.]
With Thanksgiving on the way, I thought about reassigning Tomdispatch sports columnist Robert Lipsyte to the turkey beat, but the New York Times stole the topic with Kim Severson’s recent piece on heritage turkeys (and its fabulous lead photo that gave those birds in tall grass all the gravitas of Spielberg-style Velociraptors). The other obvious subject for the long, long weekend to come: those moments when, stuffed with stuffing, everyone collapses on the nearest couch to catch the next football game — and the next and the next and the next — as the pros of the National Football League and the putative amateurs of the colleges compete for bandwidth. This is the season, of course, when college football teams (and office betting pools) begin the great plunge toward the bowl games, those ultimate gladiatorial events which were once named for flowers and fruits (how could that have happened?), but n! ow represent tortilla chips, insurance companies, and banks. So it goes, Kurt Vonnegut might once have said.
As he’s shown with his work on the now-indicted Barry Bonds, the lost Republicans of NASCAR racing, and last summer’s scandals of sports and the Bush administration, Lipsyte, author most recently of the young adult novel Yellow Flag, is always ahead the game — not to speak of behind, around, and underneath it. College? Football? By the time he’s done with the money politics of that “sport,” you’re bound to wonder whether it’s not, like “late capitalism,” a classic oxymoron. Tom
Corruption 101, Gladiators and Beer
Why Bowl Games Are the Real Final Exams
By Robert Lipsyte
1. Roar, Lions!
“I don’t think of intercollegiate sports as something extracurricular.” — Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University.
Columbia football was a comforting joke when I was there in the 1950s. We thought losing teams meant we had our priorities straight. Why wouldn’t we rather be closer to the rigorously intellectual University of Chicago, which had dropped football altogether in 1939, than to, say, Auburn, an undefeated football team that needed a university of which it could be proud?