The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, January 12, 1999, Page 5, Image 5
Husker revision Rutgers professor defends attack on NU athletics Editor’s note: Each Tuesday this semester, the Daily Nebraskan will print an opinion col umn from a university faculty or staff member. Each works at the University of Nebraska or is involved with an issue that affects our campus or our students. WILLIAM C. DOWLING is a pro fessor of English at Rutgers University in Princeton, N.J. When a story about the Rutgers 1000 cam paign against “professionalized” college athlet ics appeared in the Daily Nebraskan last semes ter, we got a blizzard of e-mail messages from outraged Huskers. Most began with a question: How dare we use Nebraska as an example of a university where football overshadowed academic and intellectual values? Then came the eerie part. Message after ^message went on to say exactly the same thing: Nebraska had to be a “leading” or an “excel lent” institution of higher learning because it had more “Academic All-Americans” than any other university in the world - Notre Dame, or Stanford, or Harvard, or, presumably, Oxford or the Sorbonne. Each sender clearly thought he or she was making a tremendously original point. At our pnH limi/pxipr flip pffppf \i/oo V\i7irrp oc 1 rrV» a huge number of clocks had been wound up to strike together, or a million robots programmed to start chanting “Academic All-Americans, Academic All-Americans” when anyone hinted that Comhusker football might be just a wee bit i more important than, say, Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations or Russell’s Principia Mathematica in the life of the average UNL undergraduate. I want to return to this “Academic All American” issue, but first let me try to clear up a misunderstanding about our engagement with Nebraska football. It all began when the stu dents in Rutgers 1000 put up on their Web page somethingjfthey called the Herbie Husker Award. An important fact is that this original use of Herbie made no negative or derogatory mention of UNL. It simply announced that the Herbie Husker Award would be given monthly to that person or group who “had done most to help Rutgers resemble the University of Nebraska.” Notice that there’s no insult here. It’s true that alert readers might sense a soupcon of irony, but it’s also true that the mention of UNL was purely neutral. If you thought that having a huge and prominent football operation was a good thing for a university, as do Comhusker fans and some Rutgers alumni “boosters,” you were bound by your own assumptions to take the Herbie Award as a genuine compliment. That was part of the (admittedly ironic) point. Things didn’t start to get contentious until Rutgers 1000 got attacked by an outfit called the Collegiate Licensing Company, which kept sending registered letters saying that our use of Herbie constituted “trademark infringement and unfair competition” because Herbie was used by the University of Nebraska “in connec tion with products, promotions and advertis ing.” At first, we thought this was a joke. UNL was, after all, an institution of higher learning, not a Jiffy Lube franchise. Then, as we researched the Collegiate Licensing Company, we began to suspect that these people took themselves seriously. One story that turned up, for instance, indicated how proud CLC had been to be associated with the University of Tennessee in marketing 40,000 “Lady Vols” mascot dolls through Wendy’s hamburger out lets. (“Imagine,” said one of our student mem bers, “if Harvard started merchandising Veritas snack trays through Burger King.”) Then some one located, on the Web, the “Husker Mall,” an official University of Nebraska site featuring such items as the Husker Video 5-Pack and the Tom Osborne Apparel and Collectibles line. “Uh-oh,” we said. Still, our impulse was to guess that UNL IvaHn ’f tliAii rrVff thrAi 1 rrV\ tlia imr\liAofiA«o A-f being represented in this way. I called Mr. Chris Bahl, UNL’s director of marketing and promo tions, suggesting that UNL would look a lot more impressive by taking the high road on this one. Send us a letter, I urged, saying that UNL understands that the Herbie award is a bit of tongue-in-cheek irony in the context of a First Amendment-protected public debate. Take the spotlight off the sordid, commer cialized, “Husker Mall,” aspect of UNL’s athlet ics operation. He said he’d see what he could do. We didn’t hear from Mr. Bahl. We heard again from our old friends at Collegiate Licensing - another dreary registered letter going on about “trademark infringement,” “commercial interests,” and “promotions and" advertising,” So we said: what the hell, we’ve got better things to do. We’ll change the award to Hubie Compone, send CLC a letter making it clear why we think any institution of higher learning is sadly diminished by association with them, and forget the whole thing. Then the Daily Nebraskan got onto the story, did an interview with me in which I uttered some home truths about how the “football factory” image wasn’t helping the University of Nebraska any, and the e-mail started pouring into the Rutgers 1000 campaign. Which brings us back to “Academic All il Americans.” There are a lot of reasons, I’ve come to think, why Nebraskans shouldn’t keep parroting this nonsense. The first is that, as a little research brought to light, the Academic All-American designation is itself a commer cial promotion. What our outraged Husker cor respondents call academic All-Americans are properly known as “GTE Academic All Americans.” GTE is the newest corporate moniker for what used to be General Telephone and Electric. This explains a trivia question that became popular around Rutgers 1000 headquarters: “When Nebraska played in the Tostitos Com Chips Fiesta Bowl, / how many General Telephone and Electric Academic All Americans too’L the field?” The second reason is more serious. The “Academic All American” ploy 10 r part of the machinery of virtue the NCAA uses to try to pretend that Division IA football and bas ketball recruits aren’t semi-pro fessional players being passed off as college stu dents. The prob lem is that such empty PR back fires. If the athletes real ly were col- V lege stu dents, no one would need ^ all this elabo rate and costly machinery - tutorial programs, study halls, solemn nonsense about “graduation rates” and “Academic All-Americans” - to get them to do, or celebrate them for doing, what real students at real colleges and universities do purely as a matter of course. Besides, the rest of country isn’t buying it. I remember a joke that went around when UNL was having one of its intermittent bouts of criminality on the football squad. Q: “What is an Academic All-American at the University of Nebraska?” A: “A player who doesn’t physically attack the tutor who’s writing his paper for him.” This “machinery of virtue” is the hypocrisy we see ourselves fighting against at Rutgers. For instance, the Daily Nebraskan story quoted, as one of its main sources at Rutgers, one Michael Mahan, identified as “Assistant Athletic Director for Student Affairs.” That may be his title, but what Mr. Mahan actually does is run one of the largest athlete tutoring 'Operations in the United States. Our struggle ^k with him, and with the whole concept of vv piuviuing paiu Luiuii> foi iiiied athletes, \ has been going on for several years. , \\ In fact, I can think of no better Y . y i that the Rutgers 1000 students put up about Mr. Mahan and his operation. It’s entitled “Tutor a Tiger: the RU Athlete Tutoring Outreach Proposal.” You can get to it by going to Rutgers 1000 on Yahoo, or by going directly to http://members. aol. com/rutgl000/mahan. htm. As you’ll see, it makes its point through a bit of mild satire, just like the campaign’s original use of Herbie Husker. And as I hope you’ll also see, there lies behind it a serious moral vision about what Rutgers - and, who knows, maybe UNL - might someday be as an institution of higher learning. Some guys have all the luck Women choose to date competitive, aggressive jerks for genetic reasons i JAY GISH is a senior broadcasting major and a Daily Nebraskan columnist. Nice guys are suckers. I was reminded of this fact while visiting with an old friend over semester break - because both my friend and I happen to be nice guys. Being kind and considerate may get you some things in life - like a good reference from your church pas tor-but not dates. And don’t tell me nice guys finishing last is just a cliche. Sure, there are your oddball girls who really do look for a responsible, parent approved guy early on. But come on - the large majority of women reading this have dated at least one realjerk, and probably several. At the same time, there are really good guys around them whom they’ve snubbed and/or ignored. This “nice guys” cliche is not a fallacy, it’s the norm. * One second -1 know what you’re thinking. For God’s sake, don’t chalk this column up as sniveling for sympathy. I realize that, of our 3 bil lion women on the planet, any guy who totally concentrated his efforts could get one (particular ly with today’s media pushing promiscuity like it’s a panacea). I just think it’s time that we really recognized how the deck is stacked against cour teous, dependable guys - “nice guys.” There’s a theory to support that old nice guys cliche, and it makes sense - at least to guys like me who know nothing about sociology or biolo gy. I’m sure it will enrage a whole bunch of peo ple, so let’s go over it. (Let me just say I’m not insane, and I realize no theory can describe every woman. So, for those gals who can honestly handle a nice guy, call me. And for those girls who can’t, and get really enraged by this ... call me. I bet you sound sexy when you’re angry.) There’s that big stage of women’s lives in which they’re fertile - between puberty and menopause (surprise, surprise!). Within that stage, a lot of women have two sub-stages - so goes the theory. The first stage is what frustrates we nice guys, because it’s the time in which many women go after jerks. (Yeah, I know, ladies... we’re all jerks. Pipe down.) You know who I mean - guys that do everything from forcing their girlfriends to pay for everything, all the way up to abusing them. There are a bundle of guys out there who probably don’t deserve to even look at a woman - but they nevertheless find lovers. Women love these jerks, defend them, sometimes have their children. It’s amazing how often nice guys get to hear about their female friends’ bad relationships, or lack of dates altogether. You know who most often gets to hear the phrase, “Why can’t I get a good man?” Good men who, for some reason, don’t get much consideration. I can hear you saying, “B.S.! Is your dad a jerk, then? He got a woman.” (And it couldn’t be put more eloquently, could it?) Well, the good news for nice guys - while small consolation for years of loneliness in school - is that second sub stage favors them. After a woman has had two kids with her bas tardized boyfriend, she begins to want a different type of man to fill different needs. The kids are into their troubling adolescent years, and she needs more adult parenting help than her Kurt Cobain wannabe can provide. He’s given her excitement and youthful desire. Now she wants to relax and be provided for. In steps the nice, comfortable guy for the long haul. This all doesn’t sound so ridiculous when you’re given the anthropological reasoning that my friends and I have uncovered. These jerks (not my friends, the guys I’ve been talking about) are what they are because they’re very competitive. They’re selfish, and they’re always ticking people off, becausg if it weren’t for society, they’d kill anyone who got in die way of what they wanted That would be the Neanderthal’s method of dealing with things. They simply settle for yelling, fighting, racing cars - the usual insensi tive guy activities. So it’s really no wonder so many young women stick up for their embarrassingly crude and dangerous boyfriends, is it? They can’t help it. They want them for their genes. So what’s left for really nice guys who are sick of being ignored by women? Should you just start acting like jerks? Don’t bother. I doubt many of you could pull it off. (Although I’ve had peo ple who should’ve known better slap some really nasty adjectives on me, so you never know.) Those girls dating jailbirds aren’t doing it because they have no ability to judge character (no matter what their fathers may believe). They judge people quite instinctively, and they pick men how they inherently want them. No, fellas, better get yourselves some really interesting hobbies. Try weightlifting, so you can eventually beat up the young punks looking side ways at your future wives. Go ahead and follow Ann Landers’ advice, and join some clubs or something, too. It can’t kill you (except for the medieval combat club; those nuts are out for , blood), And there’s die chance you’ll either find someone, or become preoccupied with those group activities. Oh yeah, get really comfortable with your self, too. A lot of time, the only one who’s going to be around to help you deal with the loneliness is you. Take that however you want. \.