Andrew has a post today in which a certain Michael Elkon rebuts the Beast's Buzz Bissinger on college football, which Bissinger and Malcolm Gladwell famously argued should be banned in a debate in New York last week.
This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard of in my life. I doubt most of these people calling for such a ban have ever even been to a real college game (not an Ivy League game, a real game). Or maybe they've done that, but I'd venture that many of them haven't known college athletes. Bissinger of course has cred--the cred of having written Friday Night Lights, which is heavy cred indeed, I confess. But he did go to the Phillips Academy and Penn. Gladwell went to Yale. Taylor Branch, another high-profile basher, did at least go to school in Chapel Hill, but that of course is a basketball school.
It's not my position that college football is without corruption. But this idea that it is somehow uniquely corrupt is just preposterous and is mostly advanced by people who don't know much about its culture. I made a lengthier case in a column that ran a couple of months ago, which you can read here.
I'm a liberal politically, but I am not much of a cultural liberal, and I'm proud of the fact. Actually, I like most of the things liberal people like, but I really dislike looking my nose at middle America the way many liberals do. (I look down my nose at right-wing name-callers who live on a planet of alternate "facts," but that is not remotely the same as looking down one's nose at middle America.)
Anyway. I like the symphony, and I like football. I love modern art and going to museums, and I'm also happy going out to the mall on Saturday to poke around. I like a fine meal at a hipster restaurant, but take me to Red Lobster, I'll find something on the menu that's just fine and probably even good. And I love Cape Cod, but I love Ocean City, Maryland, too--there's something really moving and poignant to me about all that early-to-mid 20th-century proletarian playground kitsch, and I think that to fail to stop and appreciate the striving for the good life that it represents bespeaks a certain lack of curiosity about our mass-cultural history.
There are, by the way, loads of Americans in my category. They tend to live in smaller towns and cities, and university towns (like the one I grew up in--huh), and so they move around in the middle of cultures where you go to the football game as a social thing, and where going to the mall and to Red Lobster are just things you do sometimes. Come to think of it, I often think a nice university town--the aforementioned Chapel Hill, say, which is just a fantastic place--would be a much better place to live than a large city.
Anyway, cultural elitsts far and wide reading this: Next time you're lining up one of your rigged "should college football be banned?" debates, get me on there. I'd love to get ahold of a Manhattan audience on this subject.