University athletes deserve a break

Forget about class differences, racial differences and gender differences. The real us and them in the United States is athletes and the rest of you. The public either loves us or hates us, but you are always hypercritical of us. The slightest skip from being perfect and everyone comes crashing down on us. It’s time for you to lighten up and leave us alone. We deserve special treatment because we’re better than you. Get used to it.
Americans subconsciously recognize our superiority. How else can one explain our exalted positions? The public holds athletes up as role models. Children worship us. People buy the products of commercials we appear in just because we are there. You listen to the things we say because they are important. Most significantly, we get paid large sums of money just because we are stronger, faster or can hit the ball farther. Millions of dollars come into our pockets each year from fans who validate us by giving us salaries beyond teachers and even the average corporate CEO.
It’s time for these subconscious feelings to become conscious ideals. During the past year, athletes have gotten a lot of bad press. We don’t mean athletes who have been in trouble with the law, but attacks on our intellectual abilities. No, athletes may not be the brightest, but we are the best. Which is exactly why everyone needs to cut us some slack. When it comes to college, we’re not there to learn, we’re there to train for a life as a professional athlete — they’re called athletic scholarships for a reason. When you see us majoring in sociology, leisure studies or criminal science, don’t scorn us. Classes in AIDS awareness, golf and music appreciation are worthwhile courses that keep our grade point averages high enough to keep playing.
The scandal at the University is particularly ridiculous. Students were expected to perform on the basketball court. They did this, taking the team to the Final Four. But everyone else is living in a fantasy world, expecting these students to pass classes with their own work. This is incompatible with bringing home a winning team. When someone else was doing course work for the players, everyone was happy. The team was winning; the players were playing and passing their courses; the University was making money; and the students had a team to back. Now this perfect situation will be ruined because someone who was providing a valuable service was mistreated by the University.
At least the courts are on our side. The federal decision to stop the NCAA from using SAT scores in determining freshman eligibility and Proposition 16 will allow qualified students to go to colleges around the country and play the sport of their choice. If they can’t make the grade, athletic departments will fix the situation. At least the courts have conceded that athletic ability is far more important than intellectual prowess.
We aren’t stupid. How can anyone getting tons of free money from a University, alumni boosters or a professional team just to throw or hit a ball be dumb? We make more money in a year than most of you do in a lifetime. The public and the media must stop focusing on some assumed intellectual shortcoming and let us play the game. We’ll all be happier for it.