At Cornell University, all students are expected to pass a swim test. This ridiculousness stands as an obviously (never-corrected) relic of a bygone era when the Ivory Tower thought it might be wise for Ivy League kids to perfect the doggie paddle over an Olympic-sized distance. Of course, the only collegiate thing more absurd than Cornell's swim test is in asking college basketball players to be "student-athletes." I didn't need the James Southerland situation over the past month to know the idea of the student-athlete is comical, if not downright offensive--to them, not us ("Sure you're world-class at basketball, but what's 1 + 1?!")--but it really drove home the point about all the silly things college basketball players have to do.
Take the SATs
I have a friend who went to a prestigious music college. He didn't have to pass a minimal threshold on the SATs to get in. Why? Because he was a master at the saxophone and wanted to play the saxophone for a living. What would his acumen with analogies and story problems have to do with fuck all? Absolutely nothing. College basketball coaches shouldn't just be coaches, they should be carte blanche admissions officers for their programs, just like music college deans are, allowed to decide whether a high school kid is talented enough to be enrolled. (Potential negative: state schools forced to take quota amounts of Asians and Pacific Islanders render them now awful at hoops.)
Go to class
Michael Carter-Williams is perhaps one of the best 1000 basketball players in the world. This should be celebrated. Instead, we make him go to psych 305 and statistics 201 (At least with the latter he'll be able to figure out what percentile the top 1000 players in the world equals.) Mike and CJ and, shit, even Trevor Cooney are the best of the best at a highly select skill. There is not a Syracuse English major that is currently one of the best 1000 novelists in the world, or a Newhouse kid who is currently one of the 1000 best filmmakers in the world, or even an African-American Studies major who is one of the 1000 best studiers of black people in the world. Yet instead of celebrating these dribbling wunderkinds, already so far ahead of everyone else in their respective fields, we make them pretend they need to do other things like read well and write good. If Syracuse actually had one of the top 1000 pianists in the world attending VPA, it would be considered insane to make that kid waste time during her day learning philosophy or biology or, heck, playing basketball. So why do we do it to basketball players?
Declare a major
We all know dopey announcers think they are funny, but the only truly humorous part of any college basketball broadcast is when the starting lineups are announced. Let's see...name, that seems important. Number and position...but of course. Height and weight...OK, sure. College major...record scratch. If you want to know about majors you didn't even realize were offered at the same school you matriculated at, then watch a college basketball game. Look at the majors for this year's players: rhetorical studies, French, public health, and the always popular "undeclared." The truth is, their major is "basketball" and if they have any minors it is anything from Halo-playing to Instagramming to having sex with women before they've learned their name.
Deal with normal students
Hey nerds, quit bothering Rakeem Christmas while he's trying to walk around campus.
Have restrictions on practice time
Can you imagine any other college discipline where a student would be told, "No, you can't work so hard at improving yourself! You can only study/read/write/learn for a specific number of hours a week! You're restricted from even talking to your teachers and mentors during summer break." It's patently absurd.
Play for free
College sports must be the only discipline a college student can excel at, yet not make a few ducats from. But they are paid with scholarships you say! Well so are exemplary architecture students, but no one would prevent them from earning a few bucks entering a sandcastle-building contest. The highly-talented journalism student is applauded for making beer money stringing stories for the local paper, not banned from then using his talents at the Daily Orange. Whether a school should literally pay its players a salary is an argument worth debating, but if outside entities (advertisers, promoters, bloated snake oil salesmen) actually want to pass some coin their way, I'm not sure why colleges should intervene. In fact, colleges should be proud some of their students are already making a fucking living. Especially in an era when most kids are going straight from college graduation to the unemployment line.
Be called a "student-athlete"
Ultimately, basketball players should be basketball players. College should be a time for them to be students of the game. Not students of anything else. They should major in basketball with Jim Boeheim as their dean and the assistant coaches as their professors and the mop boys as their TAs. They could take classes in strategy, coaching, contract negotiation, finding Cheesecake Factories in other cities, even media relations, to prepare them for a professional life in basketball. We make fun of pro athletes who can't speak in interviews, who can't handle their financials, who don't know how prophylactics work--yet these integral parts of their profession are not being taught at the one place they are supposed to be: college. Instead, college basketball players are adding fractions and memorizing the periodic table like stupid hobbies they would have never wanted in the first place.
You say, "But what if they never become pro basketball players? Now they're stuck with a worthless basketball degree! How will they ever get a real job in the real world?!" So fucking what. I also got worthless degrees. I double majored in English and TRF which means I spent most of my "academic" time watching movies and reading books. You know, the same things I do for fun nowadays. I still have never become Steven Spielberg or Jonathan Franzen, yet I'm still somehow surviving in this real world. And in my chosen profession. Well there's probably more money-making jobs in basketball then there are in my pipe dream field of "writing." Yet no one criticized my dumb mistakes when I was 18-22 years old. We should encourage people to go all-in on their dreams, instead of denigrating them.
This way, there could be a few true "student-athletes" out there. It would actually be a special thing. Something you'd remark on. "You know, he's actually a 'student-athlete.' He reads books and plays basketball." Don't get me wrong, I really hope we would never recruit any of those assholes. I like my basketball players practicing foul shots, not studying soft sciences. But when the rare Matt Lyde-Cajuste or Jeremy Lin or Andrew Luck pop up who actually have a legit classroom schedule and are able to play sports as well, we could celebrate it. The same way we celebrate the fact that The Rock can now do both action and drama.
For being nestled between two of America's greatest beer states in New York and Pennsylvania, New Jersey oddly doesn't have much of a craft beer culture to speak of. I typically look forward to road trips--albeit for Seton Hall a short PATH ride trip--as a chance to sample new local brews, but there really aren't any New Jersey breweries that rock my world. The major exceptions are High Point, who make the world-class Ramstein Winter Wheat (the best weizenbock outside of Germany in my book), and Flying Fish, Cherry Hill's little Garden State oasis. They strangely enough have no New York state distribution, so when I'm just across the Hudson, I'm sure to sample a few of their products. Excitedly, this Saturday sees the release of their new limited "FU Sandy," a unique wheat pale ale brewed to honor the victims of the storm, with all proceeds going to them as well. But let's be honest, if you're attending the game at the Prudential Center, you'll probably be tippling a plastic cup of foamy macro swill. So enjoy that too.
#TacoTime: The Great Taco Famine Has Ended
With the CNY BMI plummeting to levels not seen since the Pharoah's slaves built Archbold Stadium, Michael Carter-Williams ended the famine on day #39 with his first career Taco Time. Congrats, MCW, you'll surely remember that forever.
Aaron Goldfarb is the author of How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide and The Cheat Sheet. Send questions or thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or @aarongoldfarb