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Sprints Thinks George Will Allowed Being a Very Serious Person to Go to His Head // 09.11.12

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They love football. Why doesn't George Will also love football? Does he hate America?
They love football. Why doesn't George Will also love football? Does he hate America?

George Will, sports historian
You don't know it, but college football is really part of a secret liberal plot to turn you into a statist. No, really. Very Serious Person George Will has figured it out. The gig is up, Obama and Alinsky and Trotsky. (What do you mean, Alinsky and Trotsky are dead?)

With two extravagant entertainments under way, it is instructive to note the connection between the presidential election and the college football season: Barack Obama represents progressivism, a doctrine whose many blemishes on American life include universities as football factories, which progressivism helped to create.

Now, this might seem an odd column, but you have to understand something: as a Very Serious Person, George Will has to connect everything he writes to a Very Serious Issue. Writing about any sport other than baseball -- which I love but Will seems to treat at times like a religion -- would not befit a Very Serious Person unless he can connect it to something worth the time of a Very Serious Person. Which George Will is.

Higher education embraced athletics in the first half of the 19th century, when most colleges were denominational and most instruction was considered mental and moral preparation for a small minority -- clergy and other professionals. Physical education had nothing to do with spectator sports entertaining people from outside the campus community. Rather, it was individual fitness -- especially gymnastics -- for the moral and pedagogic purposes of muscular Christianity -- mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body. ...

College football became a national phenomenon because it supposedly served the values of progressivism, in two ways. It exemplified specialization, expertise and scientific management. And it would reconcile the public to the transformation of universities, especially public universities, into something progressivism desired but the public found alien. Replicating industrialism's division of labor, universities introduced the fragmentation of the old curriculum of moral instruction into increasingly specialized and arcane disciplines. These included the recently founded social sciences -- economics, sociology, political science -- that were supposed to supply progressive governments with the expertise to manage the complexities of the modern economy and the simplicities of the uninstructed masses.

And this is where it becomes very dangerous for someone to have a small amount of information about the Gilded Age. It's very easy for ideologues on both sides of the aisle to ignore those part of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era that they find inconvenient, because the politics of the day were much more complicated than a conservative-vs.-progressive paradigm -- as our politics are today.

In fact, progressives were at the forefront of the movement to ban football, as conservative John Miller outlines in his excellent book, "The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football." (Really, George, did you forget to renew your subscription to the National Review? Because all Very Serious People, especially Very Serious People who are conservative, must subscribe to the National Review.)

Yet there was a moment when football almost was taken away from us -- a time when its very existence was in mortal peril as a collective of Progressive Era prohibitionists tried to ban the sport. They objected to its violence, and their favorite solution was to smother a newborn sport in its cradle. (p. xi) ...

When the Progressives turned their eyes to football, many saw nothing but violence. ... So the Progressives tried to address the problem of football by turning to their favorite solution: They sought to regulate it out of existence. (p .14)

The response to this was provided by Theodore Roosevelt. Who was also a progressive. And an adherent to muscular Christianity. In fact, Roosevelt saw the continuation of football as critical to the muscular Christianity movement. (Again, Will here appears to conflate today's politics -- when conservatives are more comfortable with fusing religion and policy -- with yesterday's politics, when Christian political activism was usually under the banner of what was defined at the time as Progressivism.)

But Will's not done. he talks about the cult of personality around football -- see: Nick Saban -- without noting that the cult of personality really has no ideology. In fact, Marx criticized the idea. So if Will is trying to argue that football is a part of some secret plot to turn us all into progressives (which we know for people like Will is one step away from statism and Marxism), then he has to contend with the fact that the bete noir of conservative critics of progressivism agrees with him.

However, there is more evidence. There always is with a Very Serious Person.

Shortly after it was founded, the University of Chicago hired as football coach the nation's first tenured professor of physical culture and athletics, Amos Alonzo Stagg, who had played at Yale for Walter Camp, an early shaper of the rules and structure of intercollegiate football. Camp also was president of the New Haven Clock Co. Clocks were emblematic of modernity -- workers punching time clocks, time-and-motion efficiency studies. Camp saw football as basic training for the managerial elites demanded by corporations.

Yes, the existence of this unholy alliance between college football and progressivism is proven by the fact that Walter Camp made clocks. Folks, if you can't see it now, I can't help you.

And today college football is said to give vast, fragmented universities a sense of community through shared ritual. In this year's first "game of the century," Alabama's student-athletes played those from Michigan in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex., which is 605 miles and 1,191 miles from Tuscaloosa and Ann Arbor, respectively.

This is literally the end of the column. If you have any idea what, exactly, it's supposed to mean -- please share. First of all, Will's ignorance shines through here: Everybody knows a Game of the Century has to feature No. 1 vs. No. 2. Duh!

But I think it goes something like this: In order to advance their collectivist goals by bringing everyone together through a centrally located football game, they moved a game far from a central location of either campus to advance their collectivist goals. How diabolical!

You can read the whole column to find out how a Very Serious Person deals with a topic like college football. But in appearing to -- maybe? -- call for the abolition of college football, or at least expressing his disdain for it, George Will is siding with the Gilded Age-era progressives. I'm sure his conservative brethren would be proud. (HT: Blutarsky)

Congratulations on alienating your entire fan base
Willie Taggart has done a decent job at Western Kentucky. But his PR skills could probably use a little work, as he displayed when asked about WKU students who waer Kentucky gear on campus.

You know, you wear another school's shirt, jersey, whatever it is, and you don't go to school there. That makes no sense at all. Everybody wears it and I hear people ask them why they do it and the reason they're at WKU is probably they couldn't get into UK.

Yep, people who go to WKU do so because they're too stupid to go to Kentucky. Taggart tried to clarify things on Twitter, but it will likely take more than that to soothe some hurt feelings. (HT: Clay)

Just what you want to hear ahead of a game against Tyler Bray
The Gators defense is pretty badly banged up right now.

If Ole Miss wins this one, I'll be impressed
Texas is heading to Oxford.

That was quick
Arkansas Expats is already looking at the candidates to be the next head coach in Fayetteville.

Nick Saban doesn't have time for that ULM ...
Alabama is preparing for Arkansas as if Tyler Wilson is around and the Hogs are still a real football team.

Devon Walker is responsive
That's all we really know right now. Walker was injured in Saturday's Tulane-Tulsa game, in case you weren't aware. (And, a pet peeve, but "stable" isn't really a condition, it's just a nonsense word hospitals use when they don't want to give a condition. You can be critical and stable.)