“It Is Time for the Country to Grow Up”: On Penn State & Sports Culture Howard Bryant of ESPN calls out American sports culture in the context of the recent Penn State football sanctions: Penn State lost its fun and games, its diversion. It lost a fictionalized version of itself and its fallen, iconic coach. It lost numbers in a record book and money from its wallet. The sanctions against the football program were, in effect, significant only through one insular, unimportant lens: the overemphasis on football and big-time sports in general that created an environment for such a colossal mess to occur in the first place. If anything of worth is to emerge, the Saturday afternoon tailgate, the bragging rights and the beer will be replaced by something far more valuable: responsibility. It is time for Penn State to grow up. It is also time for the rest of the country, those blinded by sports and money and power who think they can be smug because they didn’t attend or care about Penn State, to grow up as well. College is about building a foundation for seeing the world in its curious complex dimensions, and now the university community through the worst kind of scandal just received a heavy dose of reality. No one with a soul wanted it to be this way, but the students and the campus now have some necessary grit to accompany their stardust. That’s a strong word. Readers of this blog know that I really enjoy sports and consider them a common grace gift of God. Furthermore, PSU is a school I’m familiar with, having had very close friends with ties to it. But there’s a word we need to hear in Bryant’s piece. You don’t need to be some sort of killjoy, sports-hating, unmasculine person to see that sports culture–clearly glimpsed in its worst, utterly-horrifying-to-the-point-of shock iteration in the Jerry Sandusky scandal–is, well, out of control in American society. That’s true as well for American college and university culture. I really wonder if we’ve reached a point where sports at many bigger schools are usurping the academic mission of the institution. (I’ve written about an overemphasis on sports before, most publicly in the Kevin DeYoung-edited volume Don’t Call it a Comeback.) Many of us sports fans are accustomed to hearing this kind of argument–and to dismissing it immediately. Of course we need big-time sports. How else are we going to raise funds for our schools? Where else will we go as a cross-campus rallying point? How could alumni possibly be connected to the school without major athletic events to attend? Yeah, there’s some lack of balance nowadays, when coaches get paid more than university presidents, but isn’t the world a messed-up place in the biblical worldview? I hear all of these objections, and there’s something to consider in each of them. I’m not anti-sports on college campuses. I’m all for them. I went to a NCAA Division Three school in New England and really […]Read More...
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- All articles, unless otherwise noted, are written by Junson Chan.