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The hall of honor proposed by my alma mater will celebrate "superior" athletes "who have demonstrated the highest levels of sportsmanship, teamwork, and competitive excellence," then gone on to take "what they have learned on the playing field" to some vague, even higher level.I have several problems with the proposal, not the least of which is that there's no chance I'd make it to the shimmering hall. As a senior, I was a junior varsity tennis player. When that curious circumstance came to be, I asked the coach if he knew something I didn't know: namely, that I wouldn't be graduating on time and would be around for another tennis season, since otherwise putting a senior on the junior varsity didn't seem especially wise.
The coach smiled, shrugged, climbed into his Karman Ghia and was gone. What did he care who played JV? I spent the spring hitting tennis balls with boys more ambitious and much smaller than I was.
But even were I eligible for this hall of honor, I'd be dubious about it because the concept is imitative. So many secondary schools, colleges, states, towns, and regions already have halls of fame for athletes.
Why not establish a hall honoring people who've done something else?
How about a hall for musicians, composers, and artists who have touched people with their passionate work? What about a hall for competent and honest mechanics?
Then there's the contention that athletes necessarily learn something from what they accomplish on the playing field. Some of them do, certainly, and they go on to achieve high office and great acclaim. But is what they learn necessarily good for the rest of us?
Consider, for example, George Bush. In a Yale University yearbook from his school days, there's a photograph of Mr. Bush playing rugby. He's simultaneously strangling his opponent and punching him in the face. I guess the illegal use of force must have worked well enough then to encourage Mr. Bush to continue along that line.
He was an athlete at the school currently establishing a hall of honor for athletes. Everybody was. Participation in sports was required. So maybe the president will be nominated for enshrinement in the hall. Being president certainly gives him the advantage of visibility.
If he is nominated, maybe I'll send that picture to the judges.
I was a JV tennis player. What are they gonna do? Take away my letter?
This program aired on February 7, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.
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