For all he spoke about the intelligence level of college athletes, Professor William C. Dowling exposed his own level of smartness by choosing his quotes to try to make his points. I hesitate to simply call him stupid because much like the Rutgers athletes Dowling drilled, I don't know the man, and wouldn't know him if he was pulling off his hood. So, here we go again. And this comes on the heels of people complaining about the low-brow nature of football fans in general, but it attacks sports on a much broader scope. It seems to be the trend that a success in one area of the world causes someone to look for a way to tear it down. I don't necessarily think that shouldn't happen. Our country and our world has benefited from inspection and debate over many things...civil rights, taxation without representation, and the Yugo all came, were developed and embraced or sent to the societal scrap heap. That activity only happened AFTER people considered these ideas, talked about them, mulled them over, and maybe even fought and died over them.
But discourse based on a marketing plan to promote a book is not a good place to start the discussion. Yes, we all understand the jealousy associated with non-sports fans who don't understand the fascination with sports and want to call anything associated with organized collegiate sports a tremendous waste of time and money. And maybe there are indeed a few corners cut to allow these gifted athletes to play games for the entertainment of people. But don't discount the benefits of the system. Nothing, I repeat nothing in this world is good without any bad associated with it. So does Dowling and his disciples want to disband all college athletics because he doesn't agree with the distribution of scholarships? Phrases such as throwing out the baby with the bathwater, or cutting off your nose to spite your face come to mind. Make no mistake, although he condemns things such as big time athletics and television, his comments to the New York Times were granted to sell his book. His disdain of media is hypocritical.
But before I just dismiss this man Dowling as a racist anti-athletics hater, I decided to do something he apparently did not take the time to do. I tried to learn about him from his apparently abandoned web site. And as one might suspect, he is an interesting man with many scholarly pursuits. He is an english professor with degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard with several books to his credit. From his English professor pulpit, he takes shots at students who use the word 'like' too much, tells serious English students to learn latin, and he also goes on to say:
"...I loathe and detest television and keep telling my students to smash their TV sets and fill their rooms with books. (I actually do think that the people in Hell watch TV. Also that people who watch TV here on earth -- instead of reading books and learning Greek and arguing with their friends about Aristotle or Milton or Tocqueville -- are in Hell and simply haven't realized it yet.)"
Dowling ran marathons before sustaining an injury and loves to spend time in Paris for pleasure. He also moonlights as a Paris restaurant critic. But as you also might imagine, he has some interesting contradictions. For a man who wrote his first book about the form of the Boswellian hero, and also someone who loves to mine through great literature, how can he not see the parallels with sports? Aren't sports dramatic and filled with moments worthy of literature? Aren't athletes heroes in their own right who overcome circumstances of games and their lives to prevail? If they do not prevail, sometimes those competitors are even more fascinating at how they pick themselves up and continue to fight. Why is his preferred debate about "Aristotle or Milton or Tocqueville" more appropriate or desirable than my debate over Rutgers, West Virginia, or Louisville? His opinions seek to create a jargon filled barrier with those who do not share his passion. not open up the academic doors to those in the libraries after school. And if his environment is so distasteful, and he does not approve of his association with his third-rate university employer, why does he stay? Couldn't he make his observations from a distance at a school that he approves? Why is his tenure protected seat at Rutgers the only place he can work? Instead Dowling employs the long standing tradition of hacking up a situation with criticism but does not offer a solution for fixing the problem short of disbanding college sports ties to television revenues.
Finally, Dowling is a man who proudly claims he is no longer on e-mail or the internet because of porn sites popping up and ruining a manuscript he claimed to have been working on for six years. This declaration is symptomatic of the Dowling overall. He chooses to look at himself as a victim for something which he is not. Number one, if you are working on something for six years, you should have it backed up someplace, so the most you will lose is from the last point you backed-up your information. And that could be as simple as printing it, e-mailing it, or saving on a variety of disc formats. Secondly, internet pop-ups are often a function of cookies which can be deleted from your computer. Dowling's ignorance strikes again. For someone who loves to read so much, he ought to read the entire story about athletics in general, and specifically Rutgers football's players.
I encourage you to read Dowling's words, or his web site at least and judge for yourself if he is an enlightened man with a well-thought out opinion or a media saavy marketing man who is ultimately trying to generate interest in his own book sales and inflate his ego.