Greg Sankey opened the door and this al.com writer walked on through.
Is there anywhere else in our society where the lives of a few young black men mean more to so many white people than the end zone of an SEC football team on a Saturday in the fall?
If you’re being honest, then the answer is no.
I don’t disagree, but I’m not sure how much that does, in and of itself, for Sankey’s aspirations.
“Nelson Mandela once said, and I quote,” Slive repeated, “‘sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.'”
Mandela said those words in 2000 in Monaco at the inaugural ceremony for the Laureus World Sports Awards. The SEC wants those words to sink in.
“If you read through those remarks,” Sankey said on Monday, “at the end he says something even more important, I think: ‘Peace is the greatest weapon mankind has to resolve even the most intractable difficulties.
“‘But to be an effective agent for peace, you have to seek not only to change the community and the world. What is more difficult is to change yourself before you seek to change others. Only those who have the courage to change themselves and to know that in all communities without exception there are good men and women who want to serve their communities.'”
Have there been gains achieved through sports? Sure, but they’re limited and mostly for selfish reasons. Bear Bryant’s famous decision to integrate the Alabama football team after getting steamrolled by Southern Cal wasn’t motivated by a desire to change society, but rather by a realization that in order to win at the highest level, Alabama was going to have to have black football players.
Right around the same time Bryant made his decision, we saw one of the most iconic images in the history of American sports.
No question that Sankey’s motives do him credit, but I wonder what we’re doing when we push college athletics forward as a vehicle to save the world. I’m not sure they’re sturdy enough to survive those sorts of expectations.