Monday, October 26, 2009

The Old Dude - Prejudice i

This morning I was listening to the DJ on 102.3 say that he was rooting for Brett Favre yesterday. He kept referring to him as the "old dude." As you may not know, Brett and I are the same age and consequently I found this DJ to be totally offensive and very ignorant and here is why.

The notion of "old" I argue is just one of many of our mythical and socially constructed realities. In other words, we abstract our sense of truth and reality based on what is said by various facets of our society, e.g., the media, parents, coaches, friends, etc. Yet, what are these people basing they are claims on?

The problem with socially constructed realities is that they lack empirical evidence that would support a person's claim. So, for example, if I am "old" how is that there is no one in my classes that can keep up with me in a 5 mile run? If 40 is old, why is Brett Favre one of the best QBs in the NFL? If 40 is old, why is Daniel Craig able to be so convincing as James Bond? Does he look old? Or how is it that Tom Watson almost won the British Open at age 58?

Socially constructed realities are very dangerous because they tell us that there are limits to what people can do. Not only with age, but concerning other issues such as gender and race. For example, concerning gender, a socially constructed reality is that women cannot handle management level positions or that they don't know enough about sports to work for a place like ESPN (a very small percentage of women work for ESPN. It is totally dominated by men). Additionally, years ago, a socially constructed reality was that girls/women should not play sports at all. Competing in sports it was believed was too masculine and a violation of a woman’s real place in society which was to stay home and be a wife and mother. Yet, this belief has clearly been debunked. As for race, a socially constructed reality within sport is that whites are more effective coaches than blacks. Consequently, we have very few black coaches in DI football. But where is the empirical evidence to support such a belief? In the case of race, lately there have been more black coaches reaching Super Bowls than whites (Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, and Mike Tomlin over the past few years).

Socially constructed realities cause people to blindly think that we must be a certain way or only possess certain capabilities depending on our age, gender, race, type of job, socioeconomic background, etc. Personally, I resist subscribing to any of it. I find it much more fruitful to live a life that is more socially unrestrained while believing that the possibilities are endless and that the limits are few. The alternative is to be stuck among the status quo where harmful beliefs and practices are perpetuated and call for change is rarely requested or heard.

Andrew Rudd, Ph.D., Dr. Rudd is a graduate of the University of Idaho, Center for ETHICS*, and is now on faculty at Florida State University, Sport Management Program.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pushing out Bobby Bowden is a Grotesque Reality of Big Time College Athletics

As I walked across the Doak Campell parking lot and glanced over at the Bobby Bowden statue, I thought about all the admiration and gratitude that has been paid to Coach Bowden. For years, Bowden has been regarded by the denizens of Tallahassee as some sort of Greek god. But now, as the Florida State Seminoles are 2-3, Jim Smith, Chair of FSU’s Board of Trustees is proclaiming that this has to be Bowden’s final season. As Smith, put it, “We have been patient long enough.” Smith is essentially arguing that the Noles have been dwelling in mediocrity the last several seasons and it is time to get back on top with a new head coach.

In response, I find Smith’s idea to be absolutely ludicrous, if not grotesque when one thinks about the purported ideals of college athletics. Yes, I know, many will say that big time college athletics is a “business” and in business, decisions have to be made in relationship to what is best for turning a profit. However, if one examines the mission statement of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and more locally the mission statement of Florida State’s athletic department, one will find reference to building character, education, and academic achievement. There is nothing in these mission statements pertaining to college athletics as big business or the need to win national championships. But unfortunately, we see once again in college athletics that mission statements are nothing but a fa├žade to cover up the reality which is winning = fans = money = winning = fans = money. So when the statue was made of “Coach,” the Board of Trustees should have told Bowden that all the admiration and accolades would be there only as long as he could sustain the formula. Forget all that silly nonsense about character development and education. The mission statement obviously needs to be reworded into something that represents the truth. Something to effect of “The purpose of big time college athletics is to make lots of money and win national championships…” It should also be mentioned somewhere in fine print that even if you have the second most number of wins in Division I football history, a statue made of you, a field named after you, and the development of a town because of you, you will still be terminated if you do not feed the insatiable appetites of the fans and boosters.

In closing, I am stultified over the kinds of things that can mean so much to people. On the one hand, the world’s environment is withering away, the ozone layer is gone, there are millions of sick and starving people suffering around the world, our U.S. economy has been in turmoil, thousands die of cancer, and other incurable diseases every day. Yet, on the other hand, Smith and many others are lying awake at night over a 2-3 football season. Which by the way, could easily be a 4-1 record if just few a few plays were across the last few games. At that point, FSU is easily in the top 25 and we are not even having this conversation.

Andy Rudd
(850) 645-6883

Dr. Rudd is with the program area of Sport Administration in the College of Education, Florida State University