What our sporting culture says about our politics?

Could it really be that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Dems playing destructive 'con game' with Kavanaugh Several Yale Law classmates who backed Kavanaugh call for misconduct investigation Freedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign MORE’s scorched earth incivility is more reflective of the broader us than those of us who are offended would like to believe?

Think about this: last weekend, the newly resurrected University of Michigan football team belittled Rutgers University 78-0 on the football field.

College football: What does that have to do with Trump’s self-admitted boorishness?

Here is a team which claims one of the most storied pedigrees in college sports as its heritage. Michigan holds itself to be “leaders and best,”regarding itself as one of the preeminent bastions of higher learning in the world. The block M stands for more than just an education. It stands for honor. Michigan alum swarm the globe, greeting total strangers wearing some kind of school emblem with a hearty “Go BLUE!,” an utterance always said with pride.

The team is a led by Jim Harbaugh, one of the handful of mega-celebrity college coaches who has done a miraculous job restoring a woeful program by running a tight ship structured around team discipline. Harbaugh is a role model hailed in Ann Arbor and beyond, even garnering the respect of rival campuses.

Harbaugh carries an obligation to be the best of all of us. So coach, what happened to sportsmanship? You are no longer in the pros. 78-0, really? That is not a beating; that is football extermination. As the NCAA has argued so vociferously in court, these young men are supposed to be both scholars and athletes. Was it really necessary to humiliate them and their entire school. Is that the DNA you want to ingrain in your would-be leaders and best? Has “Go BLUE!” been replaced by “NO mercy?” My son, an ardent fan, argued that by the end of the game, all the starters had all be replaced. But that was what troubled me most-, since Michigan had done it, he thought was ok. Is this what Michigan is meant to stand for - scorched earth is good. Are these scorched earth tactics supposed to be the ideals to which Michigan and its followers should aspire to?

One argument made to me was that the system in place made Harbaugh do it. Based on the ratings that might decide post-season lucrative bowls games, it was in Michigan’s interest to run up the score, so that on paper, it looked better than arch-rival Ohio State, who had beat the same Rutgers team 58-0 the week before.

Really? After a half-century of calling for a national championship, is a system that encourages obliteration of under-manned opponents all the NCAA could come up with? A system, which encourages obliteration of under-manned opponents.

If that is truly their reasoning, this is even more indicative of where we are heading with regards to our values. It says we are evolving to a place where we win by sticking it to anyone and everyone, as much as we can. Stomp, baby, stomp.

I am in no way suggesting that Coach Harbaugh is anything other than an incredible success story and a fitting role model in how he has built his playing and coaching career. But there is nothing civil in 78-0.

Perhaps Trump’s narcissism is not as many deviations away from our new normal. It may suggest a new age, one driven, in part, by structural incivility.

Gelb is the director of the Washington Media Institute. Follow him on Twitter @WashMediaInst


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