The Bad Boys and Politics in Athletics

Recently, while I should have been writing papers, I watched a documentary on the late 80’s/early 90’s Pistons team, nicknamed “The Bad Boys.” I’ve lived in Michigan my whole life and am an avid watcher of basketball, so I was glued to my laptop the whole time. The beginning of the documentary described the strength of the entire team, employing superstar players led by growing legend Isiah Thomas. The team succeeded accordingly; they won back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990, defeating top players like Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. The team brought success back to Detroit, and gave the city something to be proud of in contrast to its decline in earlier decades.

But there’s a reason why the team earned its nickname. Famous for notably rough play, this Pistons team quickly became one of the most hated teams in the NBA. Players and fans of other teams argued that their brawl-inciting fouls didn’t do the game justice and was disgracing the name of basketball. The program made many enemies, but that didn’t stem solely from their violent reputation; it also had to do with the players’ politics. Continue reading

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Move Over, Michigan Football?

I sat at the U of M vs. Wayne State exhibition opener, excitement coursing through my veins. I’ve never been a huge fan of football, and basketball season was finally here. Men’s college basketball has always been my favorite sport to watch, and I’d finally be seeing my favorite college team, the Michigan Wolverines, from the student section. I’ve grown up with U of M basketball on the family TV; I’ve watched Fab Five documentaries, followed Coach Beilein’s progress, and learned about potential recruits for as long as I can remember. And now, I was a U of M student, feeling proud to be where I was and excited to see where each subsequent game (all of which I have currently attended) would take the team.

And somewhat surprisingly, my anticipation was echoed by my classmates. Not in the sense that they were excited for the season (that much is a given), but in the seemingly unanimous preference for basketball over football. Many were chattering about their relief that football season was over, remarking that “at least we have basketball season.” One student sitting behind me even said that Michigan basketball “is the new football.”

This got me thinking. If these student perspectives were or were becoming true, that would be a radical change for this university, one that negates tradition in favor of drastic differences.

Edmund Burke would not be happy about this. Continue reading

Colonel Jessup, Machiavelli, and Modern-Day Dilemmas

I don’t think I’m the only one vehemently excited for Thanksgiving break; I’ve been keeping a tally since September. For almost all of us, Thanksgiving break means going home, eating our body weight in great food, and spending quality time with family. For me (besides what’s already listed), one of my favorite things to do over break is watch movies with my dad. We have very similar tastes, and a few years ago, he introduced me to one of my favorite movies of all-time, A Few Good Men.

To me, this movie is pretty much perfection. The film has one of the greatest storylines of all time, is responsible for some of the most quotable and memorable scenes ever, and is one of the precious few films that Tom Cruise doesn’t overact in. Honestly, I could make this entire post about the greatness that is A Few Good Men. But, in particular, I wanted to focus on one of its most memorable scenes: Colonel Jessup’s famous “You can’t handle the truth.” It highlights a concept that has birthed moral controversy for many, many years. Perfectly articulated by Machiavelli, it explores the idea that, as a leader, “it is better to be feared than loved.” 

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Where Burke-ian Ideals May Fall in Modern Politics

If my life depended on it, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “You’ll be a great lawyer.”

I’ve been told this by teachers, coaches, and older family members way before I had any interest in the profession—even before I was entirely sure what a lawyer was. I’m not saying this to be conceited—in fact, more often than not the phrase was used as a subtle insult—I’m trying to make a point. These remarks were usually made in response to an instance in which I had challenged an opinion that the majority of others had widely accepted; when I’d challenge a parental decision, talk back to a referee, or argue that a teacher had not given us adequate study time. I was a frequent arguer, and this quickly earned me the reputation growing up as the kid who just liked to stir the pot and a negatively connoted remark about lawyers from my superiors.

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“Shall Not Perish from the Earth”

Finally, we have grazed the waters of modern politics in discussion sessions. We recently discussed Max Weber’s ideas in “Politics as a Vocation” for qualities an admirable politician should have, and a debate ensued regarding whether having ethics of conviction (firm, unchanging stances/ideas) or responsibility (flexible values that reflect a concern for the future) were most beneficial. Although it was mostly agreed that both types of ethics were needed in some amount to advance a politician’s career, the variable most students struggled with in order to make their decision was the hypothetical politician’s current political standing. “Is he or she trying to win an election or make actual decisions in office?” tended to dictate student responses. The majority eventually agreed that ethics of conviction should be displayed to appeal to voters who share similar beliefs, but ethics of responsibility should be shown in office “to get the job done.”

But why were we only considering what would better the politician’s career? Why did we only consider their public image and likability under the context of them getting elected? And why did we gauge a politician’s “success” by how long they remained in office or how good they looked on paper? Continue reading

For All the Wrong Reasons

“The spectator invests his surrogate out there with all his carefree hopes, his aspirations for freedom, his yearning for transmutation of business into leisure, war into peace, effort into grace.”–A. Bartlett Giamatti

According to Giamatti, we are so emotionally invested in and attracted to sports because they fulfill an innate desire within us to achieve a sense of paradise: where time stops, we feel fully content, and things ordinarily classified by themselves as work become autotelic, or intrinsically valuable. To achieve this sensation, there must first be a presence of athletic greatness and atmosphere in which to immerse ourselves. And this is where the majority of America, the laymen in the eyes of sports, hits a proverbial roadblock: many of us are not physically capable of accomplishing such feats. Continue reading