I wish I were shitting you here, but sadly, I’m not.
College football became a national phenomenon because it supposedly served the values of progressivism, in two ways. It exemplified specialization, expertise and scientific management. And it would reconcile the public to the transformation of universities, especially public universities, into something progressivism desired but the public found alien. Replicating industrialism’s division of labor, universities introduced the fragmentation of the old curriculum of moral instruction into increasingly specialized and arcane disciplines. These included the recently founded social sciences — economics, sociology, political science — that were supposed to supply progressive governments with the expertise to manage the complexities of the modern economy and the simplicities of the uninstructed masses.
Football taught the progressive virtue of subordinating the individual to the collectivity. Inevitably, this led to the cult of one individual, the coach. Today, in almost every state, at least one public university football coach is paid more than the governor.
And Babe Ruth was famously paid more than the President of the United States, George.
This is some bizarre stuff. For one thing, as Jonathan Chait notes, it’s not exactly like college football thrives in progressive hot beds. In fact, the reality is pretty much the opposite of that. For another, if you want to talk about sports and the modern regulatory state, you would find a better example of that with Will’s beloved professional baseball, which is chock full of examples such as public financial support of stadiums, a sweeping antitrust exemption and the Supreme Court-supported reserve clause (now discarded). Not to mention that whole Red Sox-Yankees thing.
Face it, George Will thinks you’re all a bunch of pinkos for reading this blog.
(h/t Ed Kilgore)