Every week when I sit down to write this column, I have three objectives. First, I must talk about things that happen in sports. Second, I must talk about things which happen in sports that people care about. Third, I must talk about things that happen in sports which people at the University of Dallas care about.
It is this third objective that causes me the most grief. In major league sports, there are a dozen issues to discuss: Tom Brady’s suspension, Cam Newton’s concussion, Colin Kaepernick’s protests, the Cubs returning to the World Series — the list goes on.
But how many of these are relevant material for The University News? People can read better researched opinions on all of these things in national news coverage, so the only novel things I can write about are things that happen on campus.
You can imagine, then, just how relieved I was when two UD basketball players joined Kaepernick’s national anthem protest. Finally, an issue in UD sports that really matters. But even then, it was always going to be more of a political — even ethical — issue on this campus.
Everyone has something to say about the character of those two basketball players. But what is the basketball team’s record? Who are their top scorers? Did you know that one of the women’s basketball players was recently honored with a Character and Community award?
There is a certain sense in which whatever happens in UD sports, even if it’s not about rankings and statistics, is either straight up unimportant to most people, or immediately overshadowed by the latest rumor about Seth Oldham.
Several weeks ago, Allison Seager wrote an article in response to my first column, defending the place of student-athletes at UD. She said that athletics, as with all other learning at UD, is oriented towards virtue — toward striving to become better. She talked about how playing collegiate sports is also about those hours of homework on a bus trip hundreds of miles long.
When all is said and done, however, to whom do those hours matter, besides the athlete? Quite frankly, the answer might be nobody. Why?
Recall that, in Plato’s “Republic,” the first stage of disciplining the philosopher kings is athletic training. If we consider the human person to be a union of body and soul, then the perfection of the body is important. Ask anyone on campus whether this is the case, and they will agree strongly.
If that’s the case, how is it so easy to ignore UD athletics? According to recruiting coordinator Matt Grahn, roughly 25 percent — one in four — of our incoming freshman this year were student-athletes. For my part, I could probably identify about 15-20 percent of my friends on campus as athletes, but I would have to work at it.
Just a few weeks ago, “Core Decorum” talked about real care. Maybe the reason that I have trouble finding things to write about is because somehow, I and so many others have difficulty really caring. What are we doing wrong?
How do we care about sports at UD, if we care at all? As the hobby of choice among an exclusive clique? Or as an essential activity for which people will miss classes and for which they will do all their homework on a 13-hour bus ride to Colorado? As a discipline in which our classmates train their bodies and minds to execute great physical feats?
Is there a proper way for non-athletes to care about athletics? And if so, how can we as a community try harder to view it in that way: as a part of our collective life that is worth our care?
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