Charlie Buttrey

September 1, 2019

I have a confession to make: I love college football. Especially that played by the University of Michigan. And yesterday the curtain rose on the Wolverines’ season, as they hosted… (wait for it)… Middle Tennessee State.  Don’t worry; there will be plenty of time for Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan State and some team from Ohio.

Anyhoo, I came across this passage from a lengthy report on college football from the Carnegie Foundation, and it’s hard to find fault with it:

Nothing in the educational regime of our higher institutions perplexes the European visitor so much as the role that organized athletics play. On a crisp November afternoon he finds many thousands of men and women, gathered in a great amphitheater, wildly cheering a group of athletes who are described to him as playing a game of football, but who seem to the visitor to be engaged in a battle. He is the more mystified when he discovers that of the thousands of onlookers, not one in a hundred understands the game or can follow the strategy of the two teams. At the end, the vast majority of the onlookers only know, like old Kaspar of Blenheim, that “ ‘twas a famous victory” for one university or the other.

When the visitor from the European university has pondered the matter, he comes to his American university colleagues with two questions:

”What relation has this astonishing athletic display to the work of an intellectual agency like a university?”

”How do students, devoted to study, find either the time or the money to stage so costly a performance?”

Oh, um… the report from which this passage is excerpted was published in 1929.

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