The Nation takes on college hoops

As a matter of policy I avoid browsing websites which make me angry. This means that I avoid just about all political sites, regardless of their philosophical leanings. But I'm also a reader. It's not that I like to read, it's that I'm a reader. There's a difference, and if you're a reader then you know what I mean.

One of the topics I'm always seeking is fresh takes on college basketball. Which is how I ended up printing something from The Nation and reading it on my back porch. And I'll admit, I was intrigued. This was one of my favorite topics, which is the professional nature of what we like to call amateur sports.

Here's how they put it: "College athletics today is in the control of thoroughly venal men who give lip service to the conventions and then spend their time grabbing money wherever they can find it. They have no hesitation about selling the boys up the river and allowing them to perform for the crowds in ball parks or sports arenas or wherever they can attract a gate. They have attempted to carry water on both shoulders, calling their intercollegiate sport program amateur and making it professional in everything but name, with paid athletes, games played before enormous throngs, and a professional atmosphere surrounding the whole thing. In fact, the only difference is that the profits go to the college athletic association instead of to a baseball magnate or stockholders of Madison Square Garden."

The interesting thing about this article is that it didn't come from this week's issue, or one coinciding with the most recent NCAA tournament. It was written in 1935. The more things change….

The article is also a great snapshot into the culture of the 1930's. There are things that people today would not say, or they would be accused of racism, or insensitivity, or whatever other charges the public likes to level. The author rips basketball as a sport, stating, "Most of us are ashamed of our mistakes and try to hide them, but the inventor…actually boasts of the fact that basketball is played in countries as remote as Latvia, Turkey, Arabia, Madagascar, Uruguay, Bulgaria, and Korea."

Or how about this one: "Now it's obvious that a college basketball team has no more place in a professional sports arena like the Madison Square Garden than a Jew in Hitler's bathtub."

I highly encourage reading the entire article. It's a great look at ideas that still remain controversial nearly 80 years after they were written, but through the filter of a different time and culture.