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Cal Poly, Tragedy, & What A Bowl Game Could Be

January 9, 2012

This evening in NOLA the BCS national championship game will be played. During the course of the game I am sure there will be some charitable nod made by the robber-barons of the SEC and BCS that somehow whitewashes the greed incipient in their whole enterprise. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy college football and am a fan of the gaudy Oregon Ducks, a proxy extension of Nike’s global ambition to subdue the earth through unethical shoe-making. As many of our contemporary philosophers tell us, there really is no way to disentangle oneself from the ethical quandaries, intentional or unintentional, that we are all embedded within. If we boycotted every company that was engaged in inhumane and/or unethical practices we would probably starve, go homeless, and run around naked. Being a modern man is complicated, including being  a college football fan.

Into this darkness though I read this article (from the equally imperious and complicit ESPN). It drew my interest at first because it mentioned my alma mater Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the finest public institutions in America. But as I read I was impressed with another generations sense of what football really meant when tragedy struck – it was about people and about mercy. The tragic events that surrounded the plane crash that took the lives of a large portion Cal Poly’s players and coaching staff was not to be lost in grief but to be remembered in honor, and thus the “Mercy Bowl” was conceived – pitting Fresno State against Bowling Green, the proceeds of which went to a scholarship program that benefited the children of those lost in the plane crash. True charity, not money-grubbing by already wealthy institutions, what a novel concept. These words from Gil Stork, one of the plane crash survivors, were incredibly striking, “I’ve often wondered what happened to the spirit of the Mercy Bowl. We have 35 bowls this season and they’re sponsored by everything from candy bars to potato chips. Now it’s all about big money for the universities, conferences, television networks and advertisers. The spirit of the Mercy Bowl was all about helping people deal with a tragedy. It really did change a lot of lives. I’m not sure how many bowl games can say that anymore.”

I wonder what it would take to move bowl games from institutionalized athletic greed to institutions using their clout to serve those in need and those facing tragedy?

Go read the article and wonder with me.

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