A roommate of mine once suggested very seriously that college sports should not exist. I’m not sure if she was just trying to pick a fight, or if she truly believed her statement, but there it was. I quickly dismissed it as a heinous proposition.
Funny thing is, if she had said the same thing on our first day at Michigan, I might have agreed. The campus obsession with football was baffling to someone who had spent the last four years immersed in the estrogen-fest that is an all-girls high school. It never made sense to me why people who could make it across a pool faster than the anyone else, or could accurately throw a ball into a net, were entitled to money for college or extra attention once they got there. Indeed, a University without sports would keep the school’s priorities in order – with academics up front.
Then, through a series of events and thought processes that would take too long to explain here, I ended up on the Daily’s sports staff. And suddenly, it began to make sense – at least, it did to me. Although athletes’ strength and speed set them apart, it was our fascination with the notion that when those people emerged from their respective locker rooms, they went back to their dorm rooms and did their homework just like every other kid at the University, that kept us interested. Understanding what compelled these people to return to their sports day after day made the action on the field, course or court all the more interesting.
For the first time in my career as a spectator, I actually felt like cheering – which, ironically, the Daily’s requirements of objectivity prevented me from doing. But with this newfound idealism came frequent jolts back into the world of cynicism. Of course, there were the ambivalent fans, stories of assault and surfacing evidence of meddling boosters, which were always troubling. The emphasis on the revenue sports, when often the so-called small sports were the most impressive was equally frustrating, and, occasionally, made me rethink my side of the argument between my roommate and I.
But for every unimpressive aspect of the Michigan athletic program, there is a redeeming quality.
Just when you think the women’s sports teams get ignored by fans, you attend a volleyball game and witness the ridiculousness that is the M-Zone –