The Trials of Youth
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I have to admit, I have long been Jonesing on this Sid Luckman replica jersey.
Here’s what Sid looked like using that jersey for real in
a 1938 game against Colgate at Baker Field.
(Father’s Day is coming up… hint, hint).
Penn’s championship run last year is even more impressive when you realize that it came after the suicide of one its captain-elects for the 2010 season.
Sports Illustrated has a column online now about the year since Owen Thomas took his own life. The title of the piece includes the phrase “Questions Remain,” but a lot of the outstanding questions I’ve had have been answered now.
For one thing, the findings are very strong that Thomas was probably a victim of the suicidal depression many football players get after suffering concussions.
And it seems that academic pressure, something that never really leaves many of us, was something that played a bigger role in this tragedy than any of us really thought.
Even those of us who went through an Ivy League education seem to take for granted that just about all our athletes can at least pass their courses without killing themselves with studying.
But it appears many of those reports about grade inflation have been exaggerated.
Is it any wonder why almost 20 years after I graduated, I still have the occasional dream about how I’m about to take a college final I’m completely unprepared for?
This is why I remain such a strong advocate for Ivy League athletes. These kids are under an amount of pressure very few adults and just about no kids their age will ever have to face. They do great honor to their schools simply by showing up to games, practices, and their classes every day.
You can make the case that not every Ivy football graduate deserves to get a great job and a career… but the argument that they do is easier to make.
Don’t believe me? If you get a chance, surf on over to the Bwog.com site that is a good “ear to the ground” for student life at Columbia.
Every year around this time, Bwog does a series of quick interviews with graduating seniors. It’s not a bad piece of journalism for a recurring series.
But read through them all and ask yourself: “Would I hire any of these kids right now at my place of business?”
I’m betting many, if not most of you would not. The most serious of the kids profiled are all doing some kind of graduate work. The rest don’t seem to get it yet that their parents just spent about $200K to send them to Columbia and coming off like an incoherent 18-year-old isn’t cool anymore.
The students Bwog decides to profile are nominated by the readers. Thus, it’s more than a little upsetting that I can’t remember a football, basketball, or any varsity sport athlete ever being profiled. It’s more fodder for my argument that our athletes are still too anonymous on campus, mostly through no fault of their own, but that needs to change.
The football players, women’s basketball players, etc. need to become more likely to become “BMOC and BWOC” again. Student apathy isn’t the problem. The problem is that it takes a little more courage for students to become real campus leaders again.
One more point: I know a lot of us like to bash Al Bagnoli and his Quaker staff, but you have to be impressed with the way he kept the team emotionally strong enough to endure the tragedy of Thomas’ suicide. When the guy 73 of the 82 returning players just elected to be their captain kills himself, that’s a potential disaster for the whole team. Instead, Penn came out and played even better overall than the 2009 championship team.
That’s coaching and playing through the pain and the excuses.
That’s a fitting tribute to Owen Thomas.