Today there was an exceptional article in the Baker City Herald. The writer Jayson Jacoby, took a similar approach to a Flock Talk piece I wrote shortly after the opening of the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.
Essentially, while some academics complain about how Phil Knight has chosen to spend his money (all the while conveniently ignoring his academic contributions), they fail to recognize that they are in fact alienating a large base of potential donors with their elitist mentality.
Many of those who choose to voice their displeasure with the athletic support that major universities like the University of Oregon garner, do so by insulting the very people who could make the difference that they so desperately want.
While some of them are pure intellectuals who see little value in competitive athletics, many others see the value of athletics, yet take the "intellectual company line" by continuing the assault on donors who choose how to spend their disposable income.
At some point, you might think that people who claim to be some of the best thinkers in the nation might recognize that alienating the very people who can make that difference in academic funding is bad form.
Do they really think insulting Phil Knight will get him to change his ways? If so, they are not as smart as they claim.
More importantly, though, is not the impact of their words on large donors like Knight or Pat Kilkenny; there are very few big time boosters. The impact on the multitudes of medium and small donors is bigger. There are thousands upon thousands; at least 60,000; people that attend every football game. People like you and me that would be willing to donate a few hundred to a few thousand dollars every year to the academic side of the institution if we were approached right.
Unfortunately, after years of being told that we are "bad" people for not having our priorities straight, the academic side of the institution has alienated a large portion of the fan base that might be willing to do more.
Sure, the university makes the attempt to get our dollars, but they must realize the futility of asking for money from those whom the professors have continuously berated for our choices.
The reason their arguments make even less sense is that, despite their obvious (in some instances anyway) intellectual gifts, they seem to fail at understanding the truly enlightened human being.
There is more to life than books; and there is more to life than sports. The most enlightened humans are not those who excel at one facet of life to the exclusion of another.
I find reading fascinating. And, no, I don't read entertainment drivel for my pleasure reading. I choose to read deeper. I take on topics in philosophy and even dabble reading some physics. In addition to reading philosophy, I also power lift. Am I enlightened? Not entirely.
Rather than seeking excellence at one area, though, I have chosen to challenge the mind, the body and the soul into constant learning and growth. Academics are an important part of a civilized, enlightened society. But where would we be without athletics?
The founders of modern philosophy; the grounds where democracy took its initial shape; valued athletics. While some of the greatest thinkers of all time were Greek, so too do the Olympics have their origin in Greece.
Were the Greeks wrong? I think not.
There is a way to make academics and competitive athletics work together. The ironic part is that it will take team work. Guess where you learn teamwork?
For that reason, it may be a fantasy to think that the two sides can come together for the betterment of all.