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Thursday, September 12, 2013
Don't Mess With Texas

I am headed to a symposium in Texas, where this weekend three professional football games are scheduled. The Cowboys are out of town but the Texans, the Longhorns and the Aggies are all playing at home. The highest priced tickets according to the scalpers is that last one, a rematch of the game that last year launched the legend known as Johnny Football. 

That moniker, by the way, is pending trademark approval for JMan2, LLC, Johnny's company which has already filed two federal lawsuits against some internet tee shirt hawkers to enforce a mark which was initially denied by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Interestingly, the NCAA has taken the position that Manziel could keep the money he might win in the lawsuits, even though he would be in serious trouble if he had  sold the shirts himself. He might even face being suspended  for three whole quarters of a game. Thus rides the legend of Johnny Football, cover guy for this week's Time Magazine story on why college athletes should be paid. After the economic injustice heaped on  so many desperately poor college players in the past,  it would be ironic if Manziel, the son of a wealthy Texas oil man, becomes the catalyst for a change in the  NCAA Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Pay Student Athletes (so we can keep all the money for ourselves).

I wonder if in England there is as big a hoopla for the football (what we call soccer) game between Oxford  and Cambridge. Surely, in a land which so passionately embraces professional soccer there must be similar fervor for the college game. Of course, there is no such match. While universities in England and around the world have some intercollegiate sports, soccer is not one of them. These are strictly amateur affairs and the players actually call themselves clubs as opposed to teams; sports scholarships are almost nonexistent, and the coaches are anything but the highest paid employees of the University.  

The argument against paying college players is that what would be lost is the soulful beauty of young athletes competing for the love of the game; the word "amateur" actually comes from the Latin for "lover." There is some truth to that concept if you are watching, for instance, Oxford and Cambridge scullers rowing down the Thames.  But the argument is reduced to absurdity when one considers the billion dollar industries  of big time  college football and basketball where coaches average more than a million dollars a year and often make more in one game than most professors take home annually.

Hook 'em horns, as they say, whatever that means.


The big game between Oxford and Cambridge is in rugby and not soccer and it is called the Varsity Match. In fact traditionally Oxford and Cambridge rugby teams have acted very much like American University teams, with active recruiting of some of the best players in the world. They would both play international teams that toured the UK including teams like the All-Blacks.

Until the 1996 all of Rugby Union (as opposed to Rugby League which was a professional offshoot in the early 20th century) was an amateur sport, including top international players, and the sport suffered many of the same challenges that the NCAA faced. I was actually paid "boot money" while playing for my rugby club as an adult in the early 90s, meaning that I would find money in my boots.

Oxford and Cambridge still play their match in front of 50,000 spectators, but with professional rugby now in place you are more likely to see elite players after their retirement getting a graduate degree rather than the best players in the world in their prime.

Anonymous Pete -- 9/13/2013 4:50 PM  

Don't Mess With Texas? Yeah , I agree with you.

Anonymous stone -- 9/18/2013 4:27 AM  

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