Sports are a big thing in society. Outside of the scientific facts and theorized psychological influences, this writer doesn’t really have much of an opinion on the subject as a whole but that doesn’t stop anyone from contemplating the expressed opinions as well as the possible influences of sports as a whole. Because the fact is that sports do matter and they matter on a large scale, with American football making one of the largest waves in the industry. Not just to the individuals who partake in them, be it by watching or actively participating, but also sociologically and economically.
Almost everyone is painfully aware of the economical influences in this day and age. With NFL (National Football League) coaches alone “the salaries …come[s] to an average of $3, 226, 563 for an NFL coach[.]” with the highest paid head coach, Mike Holmgren of the Seattle Seahawks, raking in an annual compensation package of $8,000,000 while the lowest paid coach, Lane Kiffin of the Oakland Raiders, pulls in $1,250,000 annually according to nflsalaries.org in 2008. Then of course there are the actual NFL players which according to the National Football League Players Association have to be paid a minimum of $295,000 per year. Never mind the salaries of higher ranking football players like Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers who is currently the highest paid player, clocking in at $25,556,630 last year. As though those exorbitant amounts weren’t enough, individual endorsements top it all off. No matter how you add those figured up, those are some staggering numbers.
But seriously, who cares about such things outside of those who hope to make sports a career? What does any of it have to do with the real every-day world in which most people live in?
Thing is it affects a lot of people including college students, cheerleaders, volleyball players, equal rights activists, and so on. Many might not be aware of it, but the motion had been put out there that college athletes should be paid, albeit not as much as big-time professional players such as those in the NFL. The social implications of such may not be immediately apparent but that does not detract from the idea’s wide-reaching influence. As Wilfrid Sheed eloquently states in his article “Why Sports Matter,” “…a critic might retort that the athlete hasn’t been a regular member of the student body for some time now and isn’t about to become one, so calling him a student-athlete just provides a hypocritical cover for not paying him his share of the proceeds. And the critic may be right” (496-497). Certainly college athletes do an astounding amount of work; between practice, games, and academic studies most people would wholeheartedly agree that they have a decidedly full plate.
However, does that necessarily mean that cheerleaders do less work? Certainly, they more than qualify as college athletes and yet no one has suggest that they (who would still appear on TV with college football players, still have to practice for hours on end, still have to maintain the same grade point average) get paid for simply doing what they love. “And unlike more-revered athletes – such as football players or even gymnasts – cheerleaders have to contend with lack of respect from their peers and frequent mockery…,” (524) as Jennie Yabroff so eloquently states in her article “In Defense of Cheering.”
Even presuming the highly-unlikely scenario that all college athletes (including cheerleaders, volleyball players, softball players, etc.) were paid any given amount, the civil unrest and animosity among the student body would be staggering and the division of the social niches would be more prominent than ever and let’s not even go into the psychological ramifications of such a scenario. Sheed wraps up the entire hypothetical event very neatly when he states “[T]he greatest chasm of all would open up between sports and the whole outside world of student activity…” (497)
Even the fact that the motion was put forward at all sends a very loud message across numerous countries and societies: “It is saying, for instance, that playing in the band at half time is still fun (no one has ever suggested paying the band), but that throwing and catching a ball is work—and that even this depends on what kind of ball you’re using” (Sheed 497). So then, according to this idea of college athletes being paid, not only is it that human beings are not all made equal, but also that not all balls are made equal. Enforcing that kind of idea to any extent would only snowball and the ensuing sociological chaos would be as detrimental as the internment camps of Japanese Americans and the Holocaust during World War II.
It may seem to some as though I am inflating the issue, giving it a sense of importance which is not only vastly excessive but also wholly undeserved; however, history is full of examples in which a small, independently insignificant action had earth-shattering consequences. Just one internationally known example is that of Rosa Parks, who simply refused to move from her seat on the bus the evening of December 1, 1955. Mahatma Ghandi and Cesar Chávez pose as two other examples, both peacefully protesting injustices such as Ghandi’s two hundred mile march to the sea to collect salt in direct defiance of his government’s laws at the time. Though these events are by no means the same as the idea of paying college athletes, they still serve to show how small actions can snowball and create utter social upheaval.
So do sports matter? Without a doubt. Do professional athletes deserve to get paid? Most definitely. However, should that monetary sense of professionalism seep into college sports? Not without such a thing being applied equally across the student body, otherwise we as a society run the very real risk of regressing into the same behaviors that many feel shame over having ever occurred.
Sheed, Wilfrid. “Why Sports Matter” They Say/I Say with Readings. 2nd Edition. Eds. Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst. New York: Norton, 2012. 489-510. Print.
Yabroff, Jennie. “In Defense of Cheering” They Say/I Say with Readings. 2nd Edition. Eds. Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst. New York: Norton, 2012. 524-527. Print.
“NFL Salaries: How Much Do NFL Players and Coaches Earn?” http://nflsalaries.org/.