Monday, December 22, 2008

What it Was was Football

Football Playoffs and Bowl Games Begin

College and Professional Football: Ah the time of the year when footballs fly through the air and big ugly guys smack other big ugly guys around and get paid for it. College players don’t get paid per se, but they do get a “free college education,” or at least, thanks to strict NCAA rules they get to major in eligibility for four years. We’ll talk more about that later, but first, let me air a few of my pet peeves. They have to do with the English language. Announcers at all levels of athletic competition seem to have an affinity for murdering the English language. These are probably the same guys who mock immigrants for not learning English quickly enough or who don’t speak with grammatical perfection. Well, let’s take a look at a few of a few of the trite phrases and language butchers.

Whoa, Nelly: One of the favorite terms by Keith Jackson that has become his hallmark is fine with me. But the one that is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me is “True freshman.” As in, “The quarterback is a true freshman.” Are the other freshmen liars, or perhaps seniors masquerading as freshmen? No, the NCAA blesses college athletes five calendar years to complete four years of eligibility. If a first year academic freshman does not participate in sports, then the following year that player might be a sophomore academically, but is playing his first (or freshman) year of eligibility.” Thus an academic sophomore who participates in his first year of athletic eligibility is a “Redshirt freshman.” I guess the announcers believe that no freshman should be on the field without two descriptive adjectives. But fellas, the first year participant who is also in his first year of academic statue is a freshman; not a “True freshman.” Whew, I feel better.

Not to confuse all the Ohio State’s with one another: The next expression that rankles me goes something like, “The BYUs, Penn States, and Ohio States….” Uh, fellas, there is only one BYU, one Ohio State, one Penn State, etc. so they can’t be plural. The exception is Miami, which is found both in Ohio and Florida. Next, let’s talk about tense. After a player is tackled trying to run up the middle of the field, the announcer will often say, “If he runs to the outside, he scores.” Come on guys. Is it so difficult to say, “Had he run to the outside he would have scored?” Oh, don’t forget, coming up is a third down situation. I once counted “situation” used 27 times. How about “Third down coming up?” And if your team is doing poorly because, “they have yet to get untracked,” does that mean your team is tracked? How exactly does a team become tracked in order for it to become untracked?

Switching sports metaphors: It seems that anything that happens for the third time regardless of the sport becomes a trifecta. If a baseball team wins the last several games of the searon, that team will have “run the table.” A player who might be the best in a particular area is “arguably the best.” But I never hear an argument. Or, “he’s as (fill in the blank) as anybody in the country.” Often a team needs to amp up its energy, or it may need to hunker down. Can a team amp down or hunker up? If not, the direction is superfluous.

Individual achievement: A player of substantial size, especially in basketball, is often praised by announcers because he can “get up and down the court for a man his size.” But the king of redundancies and mispronunciations has to be John Madden. After each play Madden feels obligated to provide analysis of what has occurred no matter how redundant or irrelevant. He would be an ideal color man for radio or for visually impaired folks watching television, but PLEASE John, ease up on the paralysis of your analysis. My final comment has to do with words that are either misused or made up. How often does one hear of a player’s “athleticism?” We will close with a recent term that was spewed from the lips of an announcer when a football player leapt over opponents. In the words of the announcer he became “verticalized.

But those announcers went to college: Graduation rates among college athletes have been a hot topic for decades. Allen Sack, a professor in the College of Business at the University of New Haven, played football on Notre Dame’s 1966 national championship football team. He has written several articles critical of NCAA reporting of graduation rates for athletes. In a recent article Stack states, “For instance, the University of Florida, a top-ranked team in the Bowl Championship Series ratings, graduates 81 percent of its student body, but only 36 percent of its football players. Other top ranked BCS teams whose graduation rates fall 30 or more percentage points below those other students include Texas, USC, Georgia, BYU, Georgia Tech, California, and Michigan State. The average FGR for the top 25 BCS teams as of Nov. 3 was 52 percent, 18 percent below that of student bodies.

There are graduation rates and there are graduation rates: The NCAA uses a different method to calculate athlete graduation so schools appear to have a higher graduation rate. Some, like Sack say is tantamount to cooking the books. But even when giving the NCAA the benefit of the doubt, a closer look reveals what is referred to as “clustering.” According to a recent USA Today article, “the NCAA's toughening of academic requirements for athletes has helped create an environment in which they are more likely to graduate than other students — but also more likely to be clustered in programs without the academic demands most students face. Some athletes say they have pursued — or have been steered to — degree programs that helped keep them eligible for sports but didn't prepare them for post-sports careers.”

All so-called Division 1A school were studied and the results were that “83% of the schools (118 of 142) had at least one team in which at least 25% of the juniors and seniors majored in the same thing. For example, seven of the 19 players on Stanford's baseball team majored in sociology.

•34% of the teams (222 of 654) had at least one such cluster of student-athletes.

•More than half of the clusters are what some analysts refer to as "extreme," in which at least 40% of athletes on a team are in the same major (125 of 235). All seven of the juniors and seniors on Texas-El Paso's men's basketball team majored in multidisciplinary studies, for example.” And a Multidisciplinary Studies major prepares the young college graduate to do what? Oh yes, to apply at all those multidisciplinary firms that snap them up.

Graduation rates increase and the NCAA can boast that they keep the student in student athlete. Coaches who recruit can tell the parent of every athlete what they want to hear – that their son or daughter will leave their institution with a quality education. Even the athlete believes it. But the joke’s on him, or her.

A little blogging music Maestro… A little Beach Boys singing, “Be True to Your School.”

Dr. Forgot

No comments: