What happens when you take the money out of college sports? You know what I mean. Sure basketball and football players are “student-athletes,” but those games are big business with so many young guys trying to climb the ladder to the pros. Bowl games are fun and March Madness is a phenomenal event, but money and professionalism absolutely shape the culture of these sports. So what happens when you take those away? College baseball happens.
The College World Series begins tomorrow in Omaha, Neb., and watching it can be somewhat disorienting—in a refreshing way. There are few big name players among the eight teams competing, and even the ones who are top major league draft picks aren’t all that very well known. In the NCAA’s Division I, schools can offer only 11.7 baseball scholarships at a time among the 30 or more players on their rosters. So while a five-star recruit in football or basketball goes to school for free, many baseball players receive just a fraction of financial aid while they cover the rest out of pocket.
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The games aren’t always the prettiest, but the passion is evident. With every team’s elimination come tears as players realize they might never play competitive ball again. With every win comes a charge to the mound or home plate resulting in a leaping, whooping pile of celebrating humanity. The announcers share background on players like: “Matt has already earned his degree in philosophy and will be pursuing a career as a teacher.” It’s so normal!
This is what it looks like when sports are in their right place, a part of life but not all of it. When players play out of commitment and not for just for personal gain, their passion shows and the game maintains a kind of purity. When they compete for nothing but winning’s sake and their teammates, the excitement is palpable. What do they earn for winning? Satisfaction. And that’s when sports are at their best.
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