Monday, February 25, 2013

Pay to Play? No Way!

First and foremost I am very pro-school spirit. I enjoy staying late, being loud and awkwardly complimenting the players on their wins. However as much as I love college sports I do not love the idea of N.C.A.A. student athletes getting paid to play.
            Joe Nocera of the New York Times even drew up a plan of why and how student athletes should be paid. For the most part he only promotes football and men’s basketball. I thought Misogyny in sports ended with the Hollywood classic ”A league of their own.” The Islanders women’s teams wake up to practice before the sun rises and still manage to look good in class. No one is talking about paying them. I’m sure even if they did end up being paid it would only be 75% of what the male athletes make.
            The whole idea is ridiculous. If a student athlete can’t maintain their grades and play their sport they should never have accepted the responsibility. It is not the responsibility of the university to make sure an athlete can afford to be there. So a university uses their photos as a promotion on a flyer or the school website, so what? You don’t see lab students getting $40,000 a year for helping a professor publish a paper. You don’t see single mothers getting paid to make 4.0s and raise their children right. Life is hard. The athletes get rewarded with the glory of a win and respect and recognition from the student body. What happened to playing for love of the game?
            Athletes are given the same advantages as students, on-campus tutors, scholarships and academic advising. Perhaps student athlete only scholarships should be awarded (if they are not already). Sure there are college coaches who make way too much but that is their career; athletes aren’t born, they are made. When they graduate they can become anything they want, just like everyone else. I believe if you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it. There was talk about a health care plan for athletes and frankly I think that America in general is looking for an answer to health care. I just don’t think paying athletes, especially only football and men’s basketball players, will help college athletics. It certainly won’t help school spirit and forget about unifying the student body. The system is garbage, we can all acknowledge that but treating certain students differently is not the way to reform. Throwing money at certain student athletes is just a band-aid for a bullet wound.  

This Distance is Relentless

More often then not, I find myself putting in long hours and hard work and feeling like it isn’t getting me anywhere. I recently started attending the Cycling fitness class offered at the Dugan and felt the same way, all that cycling and you don’t move one inch. However the class instructor Caleigh pumped us up at the appropriate times and the next day my body certainly didn’t feel like I went nowhere. Staying motivated for the long haul is something every student, athlete and regular old Joe face almost everyday, so how do you find and keep motivation?
            In an issue of Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology published in 2000, Anthony J. Amorose and Thelma S. Horn arrived at some very interesting results for what they called “Intrinsic Motivation (IM).” The study was done on a sample size of 386 male and female athletes in various sports from Division I Universities. Amorose and Horn discovered that a) scholarship athletes reported higher levels of IM than nonscholarship athletes, b) male athletes reported higher IM than female athletes, and c) perceived coaching behaviors were related to athlete’s IM. Athletes who perceived their coaches to have high frequencies of positive and useful feedback as well as low punishment-oriented behavior showed greater levels of IM than athletes perceiving the opposite of their coaches. My favorite line being “teachers who act in a controlling manner undermine their students’ perceptions of self-determination, which in turn results in a decrease in intrinsic motivation.”
A sport that requires great intrinsic motivation, mostly due to the fact that most of the senses are subdued is swimming. Some, swimmers spend more than ten hours in a pool just swimming back and forth, talk about monotonous.  Olympic medalist for all 1984, 1988 and 1992 games held in L.A., Seoul and Barcelona respectively, Matt “the California Condor” Biondi told reporters that the hardest game is the one you play against yourself throughout practice and the meets. “Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement,” Biondi said.
Three time Czechoslovakian gold medalist in the 1952 Summer Olympics, Emil Zátopek said his track/cross country career began when his coach forced him and four other boys to run in a race. Though he tried to say he wasn’t in proper shape the race took place and as Zátopek began to run he felt the need to win like never before. He is best known for his last minute decision to run the first marathon of his life and win gold at the ’52 Olympics. “An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head,” Zátopek said.
So keep your inner coach shouting words of encouragement. Let your mind wonder to its most creative regions and remember that hopes and dreams once built a great nation. 

A Lie to Rely On

Remember the days when someone would paint a picture, ace a test or be the first to finish running laps in P.E. and not be accused of performance enhancers? For some of us those days seem almost more like dreams than memories and others may never remember such a time. However, it’s never been the ‘how’ that bugged me; it’s almost always been the deception, the keeping the public in the dark that killed me. Are the lies we tell ourselves, and the world ever justifiable?
            Over the years several hundred athletes have been accused/convicted what have you, of using illegal substances (not all performance enhancers). Take for instance former MLB first baseman David Segui who was busted for using Human Growth Hormone when he played for the Mets. After a long debacle Segui finally admitted to having a doctor’s excuse for the HGH and it was needed to make up for a health condition. The mediocre player at best, lost public support for being shady. Segui ended his career on the Orioles with a pitiful scorecard and little to no fans.
            More popular example, Arnold Schwarzenegger, back in his Mr. Universe days, Arnold was caught using steroids.  Heck Schwarzenegger was pretty much caught doing a lot of dishonest things. He went AWOL at 18, was an illegal immigrant in the 60s and then there were the ‘roids. Not to mention a whole slue of sexual harassment allegations. But he had that charm, those muscles and well no one hates on an action hero who saves the world from aliens!
            Finally we can talk about Texas native Lance Armstrong until the cows come home. The man came in first, seven consecutive times in the Tour de France. Then he broke Sheryl Crows’ heart, so we forgot all about his wins. However, then cancer struck him harder than his 2009 crash in Spain. The world forgave him and rallied on as he got back to business as usual four days after his operation. Now after years of blood, sweat and tears he’s being accused and convicted of doping. Losing his wins, his sponsors and the public’s love. Personally, I think cycling is boring. I participate in Conquer the Coast each year and remember to take a buddy and beats to stay lively. Cycling without Armstrong is golf without Woods, just not worth watching when highlights will do just fine. Maybe he finally came clean to Oprah because she is as close to ‘the people’ as Armstrong is ever going to get. I can respect that.
            So my little surreptitious Islanders, remember should you intend on going the dishonest route be prepared to pay the price. Even if the lie is small you better have a back up of amazing deeds to counteract it. This being said, we might want to all step-up our game this semester.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What's Cooler Than Being Cool?- Ice Cold

In 18 days one of the most extraordinary events will take place. No I am not talking about Saturday or Spring break being a week from March 2 (though that is sure to be extraordinary). I am talking about the Iditarod. Also known as the last great race. Think Disney’s Balto meets Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Can you imagine participating in an event that lasts almost two weeks, is both mentally and physically demanding and death a very real outcome?

            The Iditarod began in 1973, and was originally meant to simply test the best sled dogs and mushers. Today the race is highly competitive with the fastest time being set by John Baker with a time of 8 days and 19 hours. Teams are made up of a musher and a group of 12-16 dogs of which 6 are required to be on the towline at the finish. Together this team will travel for approximately 1,049 miles from Anchorage to Nome, through blizzards and sub-zero temperatures that can reach 100 below. Just as a reference, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, your facial hair freezes anywhere from 15-20 below and at all temperatures lower than that your eyes and lips begin to freeze. The Alaskans have been known to get brain freeze from breathing on typical spring days. Not to mention bear encounters, frostbite and possibly getting lost in the abyss that is the Alaskan wilderness. The Iditarod really took off in 1985 when a Wisconsinite Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the race. Mushers from around the world risk it all for the fame and the glory.

            For most of us the answer to my earlier question is “yes, it’s called finals week.” Ask any STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) student and they will tell you that death is a very plausible outcome. Every semester students face starvation, fatigue and insanity all for the glory that comes with that good grade. So this semester why not treat finals like the Iditarod. Gather your team of advisors, professors, study buddies and tutors. Load up your metaphorical sled with knowledge, caffeine and a positive attitude. Look out for detours and bears in the form of parties, video games or whatever your vices may be. Remember to enjoy the ride and be thankful your education is not a race it is a foundation for your future. No guts no glory Islanders, now mush.