24 January 2010


The recent arrest of four University of Tennessee basketball players affords the enticing temptation for other fans around the country to revel in some Schadenfreude (wonderful German word meaning "enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others"). What we should instead consider are the pressures placed on all big-time college athletes, pressures that narrow athletes, in role engulfment, into diminished selves, selves that tend to become unidimensional, shaped by coaches, fans, the media.

With role engulfment as college athlete comes the dropping away of other identities. For the most part, big-time college athletes are only that--athletes; they have precious little time for other pursuits. They are adulated while they become specialized into a role that does not usually play well in larger society after their brief sports careers.The overwhelming majority will become "former" and "ex" athletes of a program with little hope of going to the Pros and, sadly, little preparation for life beyond the arena.

Not sure what the UT players were thinking, but it might have been the need to maintain some identity beyond the lights.

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