What Katha Pollitt Said

The unhealthy importance of team sports in America’s university system:

“In no other country’s university system, after all, does sports play anything like the central role it does in American academic life. Men do not go to Oxford to play cricket; the Sorbonne does not field a nationally celebrated soccer team. Even in the most sports-mad countries, sports is sports and education is education. That’s a better system.”

There are sports and there are sports. I live in an extremely sport-oriented city, but most of the activities here are not team sports (there are plenty of those too, there’s even an American Football team in this town.) There is mountain biking, running, hiking, mountain climbing, ice climbing, para-sailing, skiing and all it’s subcategories, snowboarding (the Air and Style competitions are a big event), martial arts, high-altitude diving, etc. So, sport in sich is a big part of life here. The university hosts competitive teams for soccer and volleyball, but this is nothing like the prominence athletic teams have in American universities.
In fact, the whole sheltered campus life thing is unknown here. Universities are found in cities. Students live in shared housing found through the schools or elsewhere. They don’t need campus hangouts because there are plenty of student hangouts to be found all over town. They don’t have school colors or class rings, or homecoming weekend either.

Interesting sidenote: while “sportsmanship” is still a term used for sports in the English language, the word “sportsman” seems to have moved over into hunting and fishing. Why do you think that is, Americans?

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2 Responses to What Katha Pollitt Said

  1. Paschberg says:

    Sports is the opiate of the masses 😉

  2. Marcellina says:

    It certainly is at Penn State — football is a religion there, and Paterno was their prophet.

    A good friend of mine attended a large university in Texas as a music major. Her scholarship money was paltry, the school said there was not enough money for her. There *was* money for the football players, however, who got all sorts of nice gifts paid for by the university, like *cars*! She transferred to another school after one year.

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