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History drops like a bomb

Posted by Charles P. Pierce  September 14, 2011 03:04 PM

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Among American historians, Taylor Branch occupies a rarefied space above those lacquer-coiffed PBS talking-head historians, as well as the well-remunerated members of the Founder-Of-The-Month club. His multi-volume history of the civil rights movement is enough to move him out of their class. And, among fans of vintage political potboilers, he holds an honored place if -- as is often rumored -- he was the ghost behind Drew Pearson's novels, The Senator and The President, which feature a good-hearted, force-of-nature, wheeler-dealer named Benjamin Bow Hannaford.

(And the house record for consecutive hyphenated descriptives falls at last.)

Now, though, he has brought his formidable skills to bear on the entertainment-industrial complex that is college sports. Branch sees the economic system under which college athletes labor as both inimical to education, and as a civil-rights issue. He especially focuses on a series of lawsuits now in the courts that may bring the entire system to the point of collapse, as well as eviscerating the legal defenses mounted by the NCAA.

As someone who's been applying his head to this particular wall for more than 30 years, This Blog is happy to have someone with the intellectual clout of Mr. Branch joining the argument. This Blog has a feeling that we're coming fast to a tipping point on college sports. Even some of the most hidebound defenders of the indefensible current system are starting to talk about stipends. If you offer athletes stipends, then you're into pay-for-play and that's the ballgame. People should realize that, and they should realize that amateurism never has been a sustainable model for a sports-entertainment industry. It wasn't in tennis. It wasn't in the Olympics. And it's not in bigtime college sports. There's already a briskly humming underground economy in operation to which not even the worst of the "scandals" has brought so much as a hiccup. (And those Miami football revelations are about as bad as it gets.) The present system will collapse and, as Bill Veeck vainly warned his fellow owners about the reserve clause, all the people running things can do about that is to take steps that the collapse is as controlled and equitable as possible. Otherwise, they're in for a couple of decades of chaos.

As the kidz on the Intertoobz say, read the whole thing.
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