Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Brady Hoke and the Win At All Costs Culture

I pay very little attention to sports these days, a marked difference from the days when watching sports, talking sports, engaging in fantasy sports, etc. dominated my thoughts. I still keep an eye on the teams I used to follow, especially the University of Michigan which has been in a free-fall for the last few years, culminating in the firing of Brady Hoke after yet another loss to Ohio State. Mitch Albom wrote a piece on the firing of Hoke for the Detroit Free Press and said something very troubling.

A news conference was held Tuesday afternoon, three days after the final game of U-M's season, a bad loss to Ohio State. Here's what we learned that we already knew: that Hoke is a good man, that he is a classy man, that he instilled important values.

And that he lost too many football games.

Hoke is a great guy and instilled important value, often to young men who haven't heard these values taught anywhere else. None of that matters because Michigan didn't win enough. That is what is wrong what is wrong with sports in general and college football in particular. It is in large part why I don't watch sports anymore and barely follow them outside of social media, and why I am seriously concerned about the impact of sports on our culture.

We pay lip-service to the "values" that sports are supposed to instill in young men and women. That idea is a farce. In sports at virtually every level the bottom line is the bottom line. Just win baby. We don't care what kind of person an athlete or coach is as long as they win games. Tim Tebow, overt religion aside, is out of the NFL because even though he appears to be a great guy and role model, he doesn't win enough. Meanwhile the professional sports leagues are full of guys who are out and out criminals, drug users and cheats, serial fornicators and violence prone modern gladiators who exist to amuse us. All we care about is winning and there is so much money involved that there are always going to be those who will look the other way at malfeasance because a player can knock down three pointers or hits quarterbacks like a freight train or shoots ten under par.

Win no matter what. It doesn't matter if they guys who graduate (or don't, who cares) are borderline animals as long as the alumni are happy. It doesn't matter if athletes are crippled later in life because they destroyed their bodies for our entertainment or if they are so messed up from concussions and steroids that they take their own lives. All that matters is the "W" instead of the "L". These aren't values we should cherish nor are they values when should accept even while making pious noises about the importance of "values". They certainly are not values we should want to pass on to our kids and doubly so for those who take the name of Christ.

I know Brady Hoke had to go, he was clearly over his head at Michigan and losing to Ohio State year after year is not going to get it done. I also know that he is probably a pretty decent guy and coach and will get another job. Likewise Michigan will hire a big name coach and is more likely than ever to hire someone with a dubious ethics as long as they win. More than anything I know that we need to talk about the hold that sports has on our society and culture, especially in the church. The values that are really dominant in sports are not the values we should teach our kids but until the money dries up little is going to change.

Good luck Brady, I wish you well.

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