Wednesday, December 11, 2013

College Athletes Getting Played : Guest Post : Hannah Silva-Breen

College Athletes Getting Played
            Many kids dream of being a professional athlete, and their first stop is getting a full ride at the best university in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). These kids will have a lot places to choose from, with over 1,000 schools and 400,000 student athletes under the umbrella of the NCAA (Who We Are 1). What they don’t know is that even “full ride” college athletes end up in debt, along with having the stress of balancing the demanding sport with a just as demanding course load. Student athletes have a full time job, travel included, at their university with the sports they play. Scholarships are a good starting point to compensate them, but it is not enough; collegiate athletes should get paid every year beyond those scholarships to help keep them out of debt and make them a more reliable player for their team.
            What many people forget about student athletes is that they’re still students. Just because they play a sport does not mean they get a free pass in their classes. Some athletes may have professors that give them a little later deadlines, or make up labs, but if they fail, they fail. Athletes must at least meet the minimum GPA standards in place to graduate, and take certain amounts of credits each term (depending on the division) to stay eligible to play (Remaining Eligible 1). Tyson Hartnett, currently a writer for the Huffington Post and an alum of NCAA college athletics, explains: “On a typical day, a player will wake up before classes, get a lift or conditioning session in, go to class until 3 or 4 p.m., go to practice, go to mandatory study hall, and then finish homework or study for a test” (Harnett 1). Harnett continues to talk about his roommate, who had a “full ride” but still needed money: “He would work his butt off all day, with two or sometimes three basketball training sessions, plus classes and homework, and go to that job for a few hours late at night. He would come back exhausted, but he needed whatever money they would pay him” (Harnett 1). He continues to explain that his roommate was forced to quit his job once the season started up, and could only use the money he had saved up. That doesn’t sound like what all the young athletes dream of doing, does it? But it doesn’t end there.
            The life of a college athlete is not just this “free” education and grueling schedule; many players end up paying for a lot more than they bargained for. Researchers at Ithaca College discovered that on average, Division 1 athletes pay $2,951 in school-related expenses - after their “full scholarship” (FYI: College Athletes Have Debt, Too 1). For many people, when thinking about attending college, they expect to pay extra for miscellaneous expenses. But for students who are promised a scholarship and sign a National Letter of Intent saying they’ll get free tuition and room and board, they are shocked when they realize it says nothing about books, computers, parking fees, and food and are at a loss when all their cash runs out fast. The new study The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sports discovered that on average 85.5% of players are living below the federal poverty line. They also estimated the "fair market value" to the universities of these studied football and basketball players was between $120,048 and $265,027 (Nance-Nash 1). There are many opposing arguments saying that people with academic scholarships are helped enough, so it’s not necessary to try and help athletes, but no one really explains how different these types of scholarships are.
            When comparing academic and athletic scholarships, the only similarity is the fact that each student, whether or not they’re getting an athletic or academic scholarship, must maintain certain standards to keep that scholarship. However, those standards vary dramatically. David Wunderlich who studied Decision and Information Sciences at the University of Florida explains: “Academic scholarship requirements are far less subjective than athletic scholarship expectations. You know ahead of time what’s required to keep an academic scholarship, and you can change majors to keep it if you struggle in your chosen field of study. You get periodic progress reports in the form of graded work and exams to know where you stand in each class” (Wunderlich 1). These academic requirements and progress reports are in complete contrast to athletes and their teams. Athletes can’t switch to a different sport like a new major, and they don’t get progress reports (or warnings) from coaches telling them that they’re on the verge of breaking the rules or not meeting the standards. Also, it’s rare to see students who travel as often as athletes do (a few days or weeks at a time), and the students with the academic scholarships won't have as many miscellaneous, necessary expenses. But then the next frequently-asked question is, don’t high schoolers learn all of this before they sign up? It’s their choice to do this, right?
Scoop Jackson from ESPN argues just that: “Every student who signs a letter of intent or agrees to accept a scholarship to play a sport knows going in that the school's job is to make the most money off of his or her efforts. They agree to that. It's no different than a professional athlete signing a contract” (Jackson 1). What Jackson doesn’t take into account is the fact that the people signing these contracts are 15-17 year olds, and the only help they usually have reading over their contracts is their parents. Professional athletes have lawyers to read and change contracts if needed. These high schoolers are too excited to be living their dream to understand what every technical term the contract says. They do - or should - know that yes, the colleges are looking to make money of the programs, but when they’re only getting a couple tens of thousands of dollars to cover tuition when their net worth to the school is over $200,000, there’s no good reason they shouldn’t be getting more. In the most popular sports programs, like Duke University, many basketball players are valued at over $1,000,000 while living just a few hundred dollars over the poverty line (Nance-Nash 1). This isn’t just; it’s taking advantage of them, and exploiting the talents these college athletes hold.
Another common argument against paying college athletes is that with the lack of financial incentive, the programs weed out the poorly-focused or the undedicated players. But it would be just the opposite. When a school gives an athletic scholarship to a player, they cannot take it away unless the player voluntarily quits the team or breaks NCAA, university, or team rules (Fitzgerald 1). But by giving these athletes extra money, they’d be more invested to stay on the team and make the team successful and popular; the less success the team has, the less excess money they could possibly be giving to the players. If you had a president of any multimillion or billion dollar company (like a university, for example) do their job for free, it’s safe to assume they would not work as hard, if at all. Give them their hefty paychecks back and it would be business as usual. It’s not only fair, but it’s an investment on the school and the NCAA’s part to help create healthier and more successful sports programs.
Yet, the NCAA prides itself on keeping these student athletes amateurs. The President of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, explains: "you have something very different from collegiate athletics. One of the guiding principles (of the NCAA) has been that this is about students who play sports” (NCAA President: Not a Good idea 1). But the NCAA has never explained or shown any reasons for why it’s such a bad thing for them to be “professional” athletes in college. It’s not much different from college students who get paid to assist with a research project or internship that follows their career interests. Technically, that would make those students “professionals” in that field as well. If the athletes at the university want to have their careers involve sports, the NCAA has no reason not to support them financially similarly to academic internships.
One way to fix these problems is to pay these athletes enough to cover their basic needs and necessities, but not too much to demean their education. There are two places this money could come from, the first being the universities themselves. A lot of the direct profit (game tickets, concessions, etc.) go straight back to the athletic programs, which then goes to coaches and funding new equipment, uniforms, and facilities. College coaches earn at least $100,000 a year (Harnett 1) and there are a minimum of three coaches per team. That can get up to half a million dollars just for coaching alone. Then there are programs that have a single coach getting paid in the millions. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, also known as “Coach K” from Duke University made 9.7 million dollars in 2011 alone (Medcalf 1). Coaching is very important in any sport, but coaches don’t win the games, the players do. Without the players, Coach K’s dynasty at Duke wouldn’t exist. That’s the first place the compensation could come from for these players. However, not every team is as successful as Duke University. In that case, the programs would set a minimum per athlete to help out the less successful or less popular sports without hurting the overall program by taking out too much money.
The second place to look for change is to the NCAA. There are many different opinions about the NCAA. Some say they’re extremely helpful in keeping players under control in college, while others say the NCAA is just there to make money and doesn’t care about the players or programs. Either way, the bottom line is the NCAA is an extremely profitable organization. On the NCAA’s official website they state: “For 2011-12, the most recent year for which audited numbers are available. NCAA revenue was $871.6 million” (Revenue 1). If you divide that money up by the 400,000 players that participate in the NCAA, they would each get about $2,000. This would help the players, the programs, and help keep the NCAA’s prideful “non-profit” reputation. In that same study, The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sports they also explain: “the NCAA explicitly allows college athletes to accept food stamps and welfare benefits. ‘The NCAA is forcing taxpayers to pay for expenses that players would be able to pay themselves if not for NCAA rules’” (Nance-Nash 1). There is no reason that these players giving up their time risking their and bodies should be forced to accept food stamps when they could be getting paid by the same organization that pays their executives an average of one million dollars a year (Harnett 1). The NCAA should encourage a healthier life if they’re truly that focused on helping the players. This doesn’t happen when these athletes can’t afford to buy enough food when they’re out on the road.
NCAA athletics isn’t high school sports. These aren’t minors playing for fun. These are collegiate student athletes playing for a purpose and for a goal: to get to the next level of becoming professional athletes. For many of these players, that next level never comes, whether through injury or simply not getting drafted. If players continue to be unpaid employees, raising money for their school and the NCAA, those years might become a waste. Lives get changed by academic failure, permanent injuries, or simply unfulfilled life dreams. Referees are part of sports to keep games fair, but it’s time to make the college athletic programs fair to the players.


Works Cited

Fitzgerald, Dan. "When Can a School Take Away Your Scholarship?" Connecticut Sports
Law. N.p., 6 Oct. 2006. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

"FYI: College Athletes Have Debt, Too." Do Something. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

Hartnett, Tyson. "Why College Athletes Should Be Paid." The Huffington Post., 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

Jackson, Scoop. "The Myth Of parity." ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 12 Sept. 2013. Web.
15 Nov. 2013.

Medcalf, Myron. "Coach K Made Nearly $10 Million in 2011." ESPN. N.p., 15 May 2013.
Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

Nance-Nash, Sheryl. "NCAA Rules Trap Many College Athletes in Poverty." N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

"NCAA President: Not a Good idea." ESPN. Associated Press, 17 Sept. 2013. Web. 05 Dec.

"Remaining Eligible." National Collegiate Athletic Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2013.

"Revenue." National Collegiate Athletic Association. N.p., 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2013.

"Who We Are." National Collegiate Athletic Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.

Wunderlich, David. "Academic and Athletic Scholarships Are Not the Same - Team Speed
Kills." Team Speed Kills. Vox Media, 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Bound Conscience" is Theological Bullshit

SERIOUSLY? I won't start fights on Facebook. But a post I read has me fuming.

A female pastor claiming that being against women clergy in the church isn't really sexism, it's just "bound conscience," and we have to respect those folks who believe this way. I have been trying to craft a response to her post for an hour and I have just come to this:

 I see "bound conscience" as racism, sexism, and homophobia all dressed up in fancy theological clothes. The incarnation of Jesus isn't just about God's love for the male, privileged body. It is about God's redemption of all human flesh - whatever color, race, gender, ability or age. And those who preach this gospel ought to reflect the diversity of this God-loved human race.

Bound conscience?! That is the power of discrimination : it creates self-hatred in those who are hated by the majority. Our blindness to our own condition continues to amaze me.

Here's my bottom line: It is not OK with me that an ELCA pastor, called to preach and teach, misstates or misunderstands the power of discrimination about gender, race or sexual orientation, when talking about Scripture.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hope and Help for Your NervesHope and Help for Your Nerves by Claire Weekes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I help people with their thinking, emotions, relationships and beliefs every day. This little gem, written back in 1969 by an Australian physician/psychiatrist should be in the hands of every person who has ever suffered with a full-on panic/anxiety disorder. We call that general diagnosis "GAD" or Generalized Anxiety Disorder today. There are a lot of great resources out there to help. This book is quite personal, clear and wonderful. It's not perfect; she suggests leaving the family for up to several months to recover, which is not something I would easily advise to anyone. And all the advice will probably not be enough without therapy, but it's a helpful adjunct.

Her principles of treatment, and they are right:

1. facing fear as a normal emotion running too high in your life
2. accepting that it is doing that at the moment, and it WONT KILL YOU
3. learning to rise, or float above or behind the annoying physical sensations
4. giving your body time to heal itself from the super-tuned-in experience of fear sensation that has you knotted up

This, along with EMDR, talk therapy, exercise and a lot of self reflection can and will help most anyone recover.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Sermon On Demons that Won't Make You Want to Die From Boredom

So, you may know that I was a parish pastor for 20 years. It was a brutal ride most of the time.

As I reflect upon those years now, from the relative safety of 9 years away, I think it would have been a joy if I had felt that my seminary education and the role I was given in the churches I served really wanted ME to be there. Me, rather than some kind of cut-out, public symbol and personal mascot to the historic values and expectations of ministry. Because I will tell you, my life as a pastor was the life of someone shaped to live a role a certain way, and while it worked for me on occasion, all the while it was strangling me. 

As I listen to Nadia preach and speak, as I read her sermons (link below,) I recognize in her words so much of what I wanted to say, to be and to be appreciated for as a person, as a young adult, as a mother, a woman, a spouse, a pastor.  Her journey, unique as it is, makes me wistful for a past I didn't get to have : the chance to be a pastor as a real, full, imperfect, intolerant, anxious but bursting with ideas, concerns and love of God person that I was.

Maybe this is the core difference : she started her church and shaped it around the goals she brought to it. I inherited systems that were so entrenched, there was no moving them without someone accusing me of all manner of untrue and awful things. I had to work in the shadow of pastors who were living lies and working full-time to keep them hidden. I had to work with the feeling of judgment from unhappy people in every, single moment of my work day. Honestly, I'm not exaggerating.

So I listen to preachers like Nadia with joy as well as a heavy heart. I would have like to speak as colorfully as she does because I use those words every day. I would have liked to bring that kind of full person-hood to my work. It just wasn't the road I ended up walking. So here is what I say: you go, girl. Preach. Because I've moved over to make room in a church that needs more preachers like you.

Demon Possession and Why I Named My Depression “Francis”

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Touching Home Base

Over ten years ago, during the most difficult part of my career as a parish pastor, I took a quick summer trip back East with my two young children to visit my family. We flew in, and my parents picked us up from the airport. Toward the end of that visit, I coerced my parents into taking the 100 mile trip from their home to the town of my childhood. Though we had talked about it weeks before on the telephone (and what seemed at the time, promises were made), it took several tries before I could get at least one of them to agree to go along.

I'd love to see Fairfield again, I said. I haven't been back since high school, over 30 years ago. As I talked, I could see from their faces that my desire struck them as odd. Though my grandparents on my mother's side had continued to live there long after we left, and lived in their home until their deaths many, many years later, the relatively close town of my childhood held little interest for my parents. I pushed. Finally we agree to go on the Friday before our departure home. No, don't take our car, my father decided; I'll drive us all.

In the flurry of that morning, I explained again to my children where we were going, and why. How I had spent the first 12 years or so of my life in a quiet town on the shore of Long Island Sound. That I remember long, humid days of summer spent on the beach. How I learned to swim in those salty waters, and how I watched the yearly fireworks in the growing dark, wrapped in a heavy sweatshirt with my feet in the still-warm sand. They weren't all that interested, of course.

How long will it take to get there? What are we going to do once we're there? How long do we have to stay? I knew the moment my father started the car that I was surrounded by obliging parents and resigned children. With my husband back in Minnesota, I was on this return journey more or less alone.

The miles clipped by with my lead-footed father at the wheel, dodging in and out of traffic as if he had a plane to catch. Time and again I closed my eyes in prayer as I saw how closely he cut some of his lane changes. I told him a couple of times that there was no rush; he snapped back that he was trying to get ahead of the traffic. My mother looked relaxed as she sat up front watching the miles go by. I smiled at my children, who were doing their very best just to fit into their mom's plan ; we looked out the back seat windows at the passing towns.

When we arrived in town, I did my level best to Pay Attention and Remember. We drove by the post office, the high school, the railroad underpass near downtown. We had lunch at our family's old favorite hot dog restaurant, still grilling dogs after 40 years. I shared greasy french fries with my children who hate relish, onion and mustard. We left there to find our old neighborhood. A place of sweeping mental vistas shrank down to a portion of town with tight, old roads and tiny Cape Cod houses. As we drove down a street, I was startled to realize my father, the man who was certain of everything, didn't remember our old address. I did. We slowed, and looked.

We got out and even found our former neighbor at home, home bound, in a wheelchair. When she saw me, she called me by my mother's name. I was amazed at her memory. We smiled together for a few minutes, marveling at the years that had passed.

Back into the car, the kids were asking me about the beach. The beach. We headed that way, passing by one of my elementary schools, and the site of the life-altering car accident my parents and their children survived. When we drove by it, I glanced at my parents whose jaws seem set against the memory. I took a deep breath. Here it was. And here I am again.

The beach road took us to a small, pot-holed blacktop parking lot in front of a old, but well-loved town beach house. The afternoon had heated up, and we climbed out of the car ready to just relax for a while. I had come prepared with my bathing suit under my clothes, and offered my children their suits. They declined. Suit yourself, I said with a smile. My mother, who had spent those countless days hauling her three children to and from this beach for years on summer breaks seemed unfazed. I was excited, and began to walk with our small group up the steps and through the sand-polished, gritty open deck to the stairs down to the beach.

Perhaps it was the trick of memory, or the natural erosion of water upon the land, but the beach was quite narrow, and comprised of more pebbles than sand.  We joined a dozen or so families of small children on the beach as I turned to look at the horizon, the view I had seen countless times before. A wide expanse of moving blue-gray water. Seagulls. A cargo ship. I walked down to the water's edge and stepped in; it was warm. I stood still, and thanked God for the moment: touching home base.

My father stayed on a bench by the beach house with my first-born who refused to come onto the sand. My daughter and mother walked the shoreline for awhile, picking up shells and talking together as they looked at me out of the corner of their eyes. I dropped my hand into the water, and licked my fingers, tasting the old, familiar salt of the Sound. The moment was passing. I looked for the blurry brown of horizon where five miles out was another beach front on Long Island, New York. I breathed the salty, warm air. I could feel my family waiting me out behind me. I turned to take in the Connecticut shoreline, the houses, piers, boats and bathers I could see. I walked slowly out of the water, and turned once more toward the Sound. I liked what I saw. And it was time to leave.

We shuttled back to the car, ready for a couple more hours of driving back to the other side of the state. We'd be home before dinner time. As the conversation in the car turned toward other things, and what we saw and would see as we drove, I thought about what it means to go home again, to return to a favorite place in early memory. It's not that you can't go home again, I think. You just have to want to go and be able to see your memories, and the present, as two separate visions of the very same thing.