Maxwell: College sports are not helpful

Alexander Maxwell

Iowa State recently participated in a basketball tournament involving teams from many colleges across the country. The goal of this tournament was to determine which basketball team is the best among NCAA colleges. Unfortunately, it was discovered that Iowa State was not the best. Eventually, our school’s team lost a game, which means they are now being called losers. Because this team represents our university, this means that our school also can be called a “losing school,” and as a student, that makes me feel sad.

I am not alone in feeling bad about being a loser. Michael Paulsmeyer, a student I recently interviewed regarding the losing status of our school, also said that he does not like being a loser and strongly prefers winning instead. However, as I reminded him, he can be considered a loser because of our team’s performance.

Calling Paulsmeyer a loser demonstrates just one of the negative results of college sports.

I believe that college is meant to be a welcoming environment where everyone feels included. This is why there are a great number of diversity-based groups and scholarships here at Iowa State, to make sure certain groups of students are extra-included. Here, everyone should be considered equal. Not only does this fail to happen when winning teams are publicly recognized, it makes the losers feel bad. Natural talent and years of hard work should not be praised at the expense of others’ feelings.

Not only do college sports create more losers than winners, they foster negative attitudes of other schools. Because of school pride, many people have developed hatred towards animals that represent rival schools. This is likely a major cause of people everywhere disliking our school mascot, the Cyclone. Most media coverage of cyclones outside of ISU sports is negative (with the notable exception of the classic urban anthem “Cyclone” by artists Baby Bash and T-Pain).

Disturbingly, these harmful feelings do not always begin in college. It is common for athletes to start at a young age. By participating in sports, children learn to hate. There is no valid reason to encourage this kind of competition among young people. We must ensure that children know that everyone is to be considered equal. By praising winners more than losers, such equality is lost.

Outside of professional sports, competition is not useful. It creates rivalries, not friendships. Another student I interviewed, self-proclaimed sports-expert David Jung, expressed his experience in youth athletics by saying “I always wanted to beat the other team, even when I’d never met the people on it before.” Clearly, being part of a competitive system causes people to want to make their opponents feel inferior. This behavior is often encouraged by allowing winning teams to public vilify the losers; it is not uncommon for the besting of another team to be described by using appalling words like “beat,” “slaughtered” or even “embarrassed.”

College sports are not only mentally harmful. Many bar fights are caused by team rivalries, and residents of host cities often find fans of visiting fans quite annoying. Some studies have even shown a connection to sports games and fans’ alcohol use. An article published in the Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education states that “it is no secret that tailgating with alcohol occurs on college campuses across the country on game day.” Disappointingly, it has somehow become acceptable to drink socially at college sports events.

Yet, despite all of these issues, college sports continue to be supported, even superficially. The rewards for winning in college sports vary, though none of them have actual real-world significance. One common practice is to award winning teams trophies, which are eventually taken into the school and displayed like false idols. A better system is one that encourages equality, such as giving everyone involved participation awards, which would also avoid labeling the losing teams “losers.”

Do we really need college sports? Why do we need to compete athletically against other schools? I did not choose this school because it has a great basketball or football team, yet that appears to be just where it is headed. I do not like knowing my school’s teams are only trying to win, and every time I think about it, I cannot help but feel pity for those who lose to us.

Alexander Maxwell is a senior in computer engineering from Monterey, Calif.