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Spencer Hall's "Broke"

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Alma, Sep 9, 2015.

  1. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    So Spencer Hall wrote a piece about why college athletes should be paid, juxtaposing it with his own life experiences just above and occasionally at the poverty line.

    There are some excellent stretches of writing here, even if the personal stuff tends to outstrip the polemic for paying college athletes.

    But, after you've read it, I do have a question about a particular graf, because it seems to be a key one in answering any argument against paying college athletes, but the writing strikes me as murky and Deadspin-y in a piece that clearly intends to be serious, and not bad-ass snarky.

    Here's the graf. It helps, again, to read the whole thing:

    "Dismiss every single lie about amateurism. If they come cloaked in this kind of horseshit, throw them into orbit and hope they die the painful, bloodboiling death they deserve. You are under no duty to respect an argument because it comes in with the faux-innocent naivete of those who have the luxury of arguing from the dignified repose of Platonic principle. Oh, but what if we removed the money from amateur athletics? Close a brothel. Just try it, and see how far that gets you. If someone would like to start a policy argument about a contraband economy with the words, "If we just did what we were supposed to," toss them in the nearest well and seal it. They understand nothing about humanity and will get someone killed sooner rather than later."​

    I get the first half of the graf. I feel like the second half of it is essentially an argument for nihilism-as-humanism, but I suppose I haven't read enough of Hall's serious work to actually know.

    By its end, you have a kind of moral simplicity that I'd be curious to see some our more conservatively-inclined posters examine.

    "Either what is going on is a vast confusion of what constitutes capital, or it is theft from every single football player that plays this stupid game to enrich a coach, athletic director, and the university. This is a system that willfully commits one of the greatest insults possible: making someone poorer, and then claiming that poverty as a necessary, virtuous and good thing." ​
  2. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    I think it is more nihilism for its own sake, such as in this paragraph that sums up my reality perfectly:

  3. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Well, lots of writers - sports or otherwise - are fashionably nihilist. Hall's piece ups the ante to some extent by writing the words: "They understand nothing about humanity and will get someone killed sooner rather than later." I have no idea what place that line has in a piece about paying college athletes - it seems a bit much - but it sticks out.
  4. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    I thought it was a good but odd piece.

    You had these searing recollections or half-ass recollections of being "broke" mixed in with that snarky, Deadspin-y bullshit that made me think it was written in that Malcolm Gladwell style of two unconnected pieces written by different people.

    One an overly earnest writer and the other a web troll aiming to get shares with outrageous hotakez.
  5. Mr. Mediocre

    Mr. Mediocre Member

    Spencer's a terrific writer, and he illustrates facets of his own life that really resonated with me. The debit card anecdote is something I feel every day of my life.

    There's one thought I couldn't shake as it pertains to the theme, though. SB Nation is a network made up largely of unpaid or barely paid contributors, who produce thousands of links that help generate revenue.

    How much of that revenue goes toward paying a livable wage to SBN's few full-time staffers, and how much comes from Vox's venture capital, I don't know. But does the message coming through a channel that seems to operate on a model not all that different from the NCAA lessen its impact?
    TGO157, TyWebb, Mr. Sunshine and 3 others like this.
  6. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    A decent read. I'm not sure the personal stuff helped to make his larger point, but I also don't feel like I wasted my time reading it. I took it for what it was — one person's point of view, filtered through his own lens.

    There was one line that was dead on, though: "My dad bought a boat. I should have known at the time that was a bad sign, because buying a boat is never a good idea and is an indicator that something has gone wrong in your life ..."
  7. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    I thought it was fantastic. There are certainly holes in his arguments, but I thought this was more about the paranoia poverty engenders than coming up with an answer to the more complex issues of amateurism. There are a million reasons why "Just pay them their goddamn money" isn't totally feasible, but something like this does hopefully let some people try to consider the other side of the equation. If "just pay them" is simplistic, so is the notion that these guys should put their brains and bodies on the line for a 2.5 percent chance they'll make the NFL and tuition for a degree in exercise science. I'll take a piece like this, where humanity is injected into the discussion over the REAL nihilism I read so often: Yeah, college athletics is a fucked up system, but whatcha gonna do? It's too hard to fix, so let's not try.
  8. Florida_Man

    Florida_Man Member

    I agree completely. Spencer's piece isn't so much, "Here is how we should fix college athletics," and more, "Being poor is bad in a way that people who don't experience it can't imagine, and yet we allow the NCAA and college athletics programs enrich themselves while keeping a lot of these guys in poverty, by either design or practice."
  9. SBR

    SBR Member

    Good writer but I can't ignore the stiff odor of bullshit coming off the parts involving his own history. This guy was not poor. Not even fucking close. His family drove Audis and Lincolns and BMWs, lived in big houses with swimming pools.

    I've been poor and that ain't it. Poor people don't buy boats, period.

    He kind of couches it by calling his family "broke," which has a slightly different connotation, but it still rubbed me the wrong way.
    Songbird likes this.
  10. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    That story is 3,400 words. It could have been written just as well (and probably better) in about 2,000. Maybe fewer.
  11. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    The boat and BMW were things his father bought well after Spencer grew up and left home. The Audi is described as a beater, and few things on earth depreciate like a Lincoln.

    More to the point, he even said that they didn't stay broke, but he also demonstrated how they didn't stay Not Broke. And again, that's a pattern I relate to, both growing up and as an adult. The wheel spins your way for a while and you can afford a few middle class trappings, like a car with leather seats and a week at Disney. But you never fully enjoy it because you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it always does.
    Craig Sagers Tailor and Brian like this.
  12. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure a lot of these colleges are getting rich off of college athletics. I think coaches are, because they command market rate, but most coaches put in 80 hour weeks, too, and most coaches do not grow up with silver spoons in their mouths, and most coaches who aren't the head coach are on 1-year contracts.

    The number of great CFB players are finite. If you pay em, you can sure as shit bet that about 30 teams will be great, and the rest won't, over time, even bother with it. They'll close shop. Now, perhaps that's the way it oughta be, the 1% helping the 1%. I dunno.

    And how you do all that while circumventing Title IX - that is, not paying women athletes who don't generate a dime of profit for the school - I'd love to know.
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