I think you’ve hit on a number is issues all of which are important to tease out here:


Point-by-point to keep these threads straight:

  1. I actually had a passage in here about individual sports and why, in my opinion, the social dimension of basketball heightens the possiblity of empathy. With something like tennis, I find myself both alienated by the sheer (ugh) Otherness of a super-talented athletes—something I can hardly related to—and engaged in the leaden, silly pursuit of trying to parse their internal monologue. The interaction in basketball make it more relatable and keep us from putting athletes on a pedestal.
  2. I agree that the problem is far more complicated than what I’ve presented and a solution would have to be far more nuanced than anything I’ve proposed (I only really nodded at actual policy changes or shifts in priorities). Compensation is one thing, the state of athlete education is another, and the future of “failed” athletes is yet another issue. I don’t profess to know enough about the intricacies of college sports to have answers here, though I’ll probably propose a few before this whole thing is done. What I was trying to get at was what might be the root of reform, since making rational cases for cultural change never, ever works.
  3. Maybe I’m being cynical here but I see fans as the only possible key to widespread reform here. Players can boycott or walk out but as another commenter pointed out, there will always be kids willing to take their place. And clearly the NCAA doesn’t need top talent to field the product that fans want, at least not in basketball. I also agree that the players have too much at stake—and are the ones already being put in an unfair position—for us to expect them to be the ones who take action. It is a question of whether or not we feel any moral obligation toward them. This may not pose an existential threat to March Madness or college sports as a whole but could at least alter popular opinion and demand in a way that would force the hand of the people profiting from this enterprise.
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