24 November 2007

All killer

ACADEME, n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.
ACADEMY, n. [from ACADEME], a modern school where football is taught.

-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.

TomDispatch has the latest must-read Lipsyte. It's fortunate that new Lipsyte only appears bi-monthly, we would be paralyzed with awesomeness if we could ingest it any more frequently.

From Pop Warner at the Carlisle Indian School through Bear Bryant at Alabama to Tom Osborne at Nebraska -- who, after I questioned his repeated "forgiveness" of a felonious running back, asked me if I'd rather have the player loose in my neighborhood -- the unstated mission of coaches has been to provide a model for controlling and exploiting young manhood for factories, corporations, and armies.

Coach as God (in their parishes, they are generally referred to without the article), or as Father, or Boss, or at least autocrat of the breakfast table is a model for many ranting, hard-driving business chiefs. I've worked for a few, particularly in television, but only one was honestly upfront about his own role model.

In the past I've written about the vicarious authoritarian thrill many people seem to glean from amateur athletics; dreaming of themselves as coach-avatar whipping the uppity kids into a life of docile servitude; reminding them how lucky they are to donate their slave labor to such a worthy cause. This was before my politics had become too radicalized, but now, of course, it makes sense. One thing leads to another. I also had the fortune of living in one of those regions of the country where this subtext is barely concealed. Other Indiana folks will recognize the name of Murray Sperber, an IU professor and advocate of college athletics reform whose frequent clashes with our dear departed General was a source of much glee for the local yokels, for whom Saint Bobby was a marvelous stand-in, battling the forces of jelly-legged academia, the press, and anyone else who dared stand in the way of iron-fisted capitalism.