Recently some football players at a prominent university obtained handicap parking placards in order to avoid paying the university's $132 annual parking fee, and presumably to avoid the campus parking problems, some of which are caused by people who don't even go to the trouble of passing themselves off as handicapped but park in reserved spaces anyway. What they did was unquestionably wrong, and I hope they're all made to at least pay the $1000 fine. What worries me, though, is that some people are using this incident to claim that academics and sports are incompatible. I've never been much of an athlete, but I don't think academics and sports are incompatible. I believe they've been made incompatible, because sports once might have been used to help universities raise money to pay for academic programs, but now it's blatantly acknowledged that all they do is raise money to pay for better sports equipment, scholarships for illiterates, and bigger stadiums.
Okay, I'm exaggerating, but only slightly. In both early Eastern and Western philosophies of learning, there was a belief that keeping the body in shape was as important as keeping the brain in shape, and it's not a bad idea. What we need is a new way of bringing athletics and academics together. Think of it this way: the teams represent opposing ideas, and the game is nothing more than a debate. Some ideas have their off-years, aren't pursued as diligently by scholars, and don't receive the same amount of funding as others. Ideas that are defeated in debate aren't completely eliminated. Their supporters just go home a little more quietly and think up new strategies. I'm not suggesting professors give grades based on the results of last night's basketball game, but building a discussion on the success or failure of the team by relating it to, say, Hamlet's murder of Polonius, would remind the athletes why they're really in school, and would make the more scholarly types pay a little more attention to the games.
Here's an idea: divide the football team equally, and assign each side a position on whether it's right or not to feign a handicap in order to get special benefits. Players should stick to their side regardless of what they believe because firm principles are sometimes based on an understanding of the contrary position. All money raised by this special game will fund the renovation of the ethics department.
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