I really love college football.
I think it’s the best sport in the best time of the year. Sure, I love fall weather too – and I’m sensing that in my new home in Connecticut, there will be more fall-like weather and less of that Oklahoma four-day fall stuff.
Thursday night was the debut of college football, though Saturday is the real First Day of the Season. It’s immaculate, really. Except this season, it seems so weathered, almost dirty. Scandals of people taking money, stealing, embezzling… it’s rotten.
Honestly, how can anyone think that paying players is a good idea? Paying players would only perpetuate these awful actions. “Oh, he’s got money… I’m going to find out how I can get some too, come hell or high water.”
I am so tired of hearing how college athletes earn money for universities – guess what? We all do in our own way. We all pay tuition. Most big-name college athletes don’t, but more importantly, all universities make money off of those who pay tuition. It’s called business. And the NCAA doesn’t monitor that… just those who try to make their amateur status a lot less honest.
I’m going to put my “pride in your school” mantra aside for this, though I believe that you should play because you love the game and the school you’ve chosen first, not the dividends. I admit that’s naïve. It’s what color the sky is in my world, and I refuse to give up the belief that some college athletes subscribe to that belief. But college is inherently a tryout for the NFL for a lot of players, so let’s just acknowledge that some people’s motives might not be as pure as others.
I had a really good time in college. Really, really good. I am paying for my tuition through the good folks at Sallie Mae. I will be until my 50s. It’s my fault for taking the long way through college – but I wouldn’t change course even if given a time-traveling DeLorean. Even though throughout college – and late high school, for that matter – I was broke. I’ve been broke for years, and am just now crawling out of the Monster Debt’s jaws. I worked at McDonald’s, a chicken fried steak house, a convenience store – all while carrying a full load of classes. One year I juggled freelancing with a full-time management job at a restaurant and an internship. I got pneumonia. I was exhausted. But my mother’s words, “Once you get that diploma, they can’t take it away” pinballed through my head.
I got the degree. And worked making very little money. For years and years and years. Sure, I wanted to make more money – but I knew I had to earn it. And once I earned it, I was so appreciative. I had done it… and learned a whole lot along the way. Now, I’m marketable because I worked every job they asked me to do, from McDonald’s, to the newspaper industry, to TV where I am now. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
Why do people feel so damned entitled to everything? The old adages are true: There is no free lunch, nobody rides for free, you can’t always get what you want… Star college athletes – guess what? You just haven’t earned it yet, baby… you have to struggle. You get two, maybe three years of “hard time” in college (which I WOULD relive if given a DeLorean) and then what? A career in the NFL… millions. The stars don’t have to pay tuition or room and board, so they don’t even have to work. How ‘bout studying? Get that degree, finish what you started, just in case your Cam Newton face and talent don’t get you as far as you thought.
It’s a travesty to the game of football, college athletics, a huge slap to everyday athletes and students, to imply that some players need to be paid for their college years. They haven’t earned it – and they won’t appreciate what’s been given to them.
College students are poor. And those who just put their heads down and work through it usually end up doing alright. Don’t scam, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t lie – just make it work. Know that there is something at the end of the hard work. Make hay while the sun shines and all that.
People really like quoting the Founding Fathers these days, usually to bash a member of their opposing political party. Here’s another use: Do you think our Founding Fathers would approve of paying college players for being good at sports? I love sports – more than almost anything – but really? We barely pay our military, and some might get free military education, but it’s certainly not the kind of treatment football players get on campus. Our Founding Fathers, Mothers and Livestock worked their asses off. And many died before the work was done and they saw results. Martin Luther King Jr. worked his ass off. And died many years before we had a black man as president, much less equality.
I’m not arguing what people make in the NFL – I realize it’s a hard job and the shelf life is short. Make your millions in the NFL. But you have to earn your ticket there. And no one’s going to earn anything if it’s just handed to them again and again.