Times change, and we must change with them, or be left behind. Change is not always for the better, but it is a constant that will not stop. Sometimes the change really makes me think back to younger days with a sense of nostalgia when I realize just how much they have changed.
March Madness starts tomorrow. The team from my Alma Mater, the University of Kentucky, is in the field and I hope that they will do well. All my life, I have looked forward to this time of the year because it signifies the end of winter and the start of spring. I used to fill out brackets by hand just to test my knowledge of college basketball and also my precognitive abilities. I always had a bracket that made UK the National Champion, and occasionally I was right.
Over the past few years, the joy has gone out of this annual event for me. Social media has turned people into assholes about everything else, and March Madness is no exception. This is not a complete surprise that I am affected in this way. I have listened to the chatter through the last few years and suffice it to say that there are far too many people with an agenda for arguing that have taken over March Madness.
Last year, Kentucky lost a thrilling game to North Carolina in the NCAA tournament on a last-second shot. Almost immediately BBN (Big Blue Nation), the Kentucky fanbase on social media erupted in a fury over the game. Things got so bad that some “fans” were sending death threats to the official after the game. Is this something that is pleasant? Is this something that brings me joy? Definitely not. I was embarrassed to be associated with these people, to say the least.
Apparently, some UK “fans” found this new outlet for their own personal frustrations too easy to resist. When UK lost a football game in December, there were more threats against officials. The pattern had been established. Blame someone else for your shortcomings and failures because it is easier than correcting those shortcomings and failures yourself.
In September of last year, before the college basketball season had started, the FBI announced that it had been investigating corruption in college basketball. Because many universities are public institutions, taxpayer money was involved and this often crossed state lines, hence the federal involvement. I was never naïve enough to think that things like this never went on. Corruption is a part of life, especially when obscene amounts of money are involved.
At the same time, these crimes were being uncovered, the NCAA was still refusing to acknowledge the financial contributions made by athletes and refusing to allow them to collect any benefits. This is slavery by any other name. The “free” education argument is bullshit because the only reason some of these young people are even at college is that they excel at sports. If that is the case, why should they not be allowed to earn a living when their labor is being exploited by the NCAA to enrich itself?
An example of what I am talking about. If a student gets an academic scholarship for Computer Science or Information Technology and decides to use their knowledge by starting up a business or website while in college, the university doesn’t show up and demand that they stop because they cannot be allowed to make money while they are “getting their education.” Instead, a student like this is hailed as a role-model for initiative. A student on an athletic scholarship who wants to make money from his/her athletic prowess is labeled a “cheater” and dismissed from the same university to protect their image of “running a clean program.”
The intelligent student who develops a business or website might leave college without graduating and still be hailed as an innovator. The student on an athletic scholarship who leaves school without graduating to pursue their passion is labeled as “a dumb jock.” With this hypocrisy in place, I find it harder and harder to support college athletics.
Therefore, I cling to March Madness with nostalgia. I know that the passion is dying, but this is a sign of my own views evolving to meet the world that we live in. March Sadness is just an acknowledgment of this.