Sunday, September 9, 2012

George Will and football

George Will doesn't like football. In a column this weekend, he claims that football became a popular national sport because of "progressivism" -- a very pejorative term in the Will lexicon. He blames late 19th century political progressives for elevating football and turning universities into "football factories."

More pointedly, he says:
College football became a national phenomenon because it supposedly served the values of progressivism, in two ways. It exemplified specialization, expertise and scientific management. And it would reconcile the public to the transformation of universities, especially public universities, into something progressivism desired but the public found alien. Replicating industrialism’s division of labor, universities introduced the fragmentation of the old curriculum of moral instruction into increasingly specialized and arcane disciplines. These included the recently founded social sciences — economics, sociology, political science — that were supposed to supply progressive governments with the expertise to manage the complexities of the modern economy and the simplicities of the uninstructed masses.
Maybe there are some connections between political ideologies and some sports -- I liked the individualism and aggressiveness of squash myself -- but I find it hard to conclude that football should be condemned by conservatives.

As a student of government, I found myself in agreement with Will on another line he had about football many years ago. Will called the game "the quintessential American sport, because it combines long committee meetings with brief bursts of violence." That comparison I think is valid.

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