Your Friendly Neighborhood Sports Columnist: Losing: A Life Lesson Worth Learning?

Back on the soapbox, baby! Yep, it’s time for my bi-monthly installment of bashing the faculty and administration in the name of athletes everywhere. I am going to make it my personal crusade that Williams does not become Swarthmore, a great school in its own right.

If you are tired of the same old debate, then go read about the exciting new “theater” parking garage. Sure, I write about this because sometimes I struggle for a topic. But I do it more because it is something for which I feel a great deal of passion.

And while I may use, or at least try to use, humor in my favor, the reality is that the debate between athletics and academics is becoming a very serious one. The make-up of the campus is undergoing a serious transition, one that is not necessary.

This week’s issue at hand: a New York Times article published on Nov. 9 entitled “Where Winning Breeds Criticism.” Yep, only at Williams does success come under scrutiny.

Williams is an institution prided on excellence: excellence in the classroom, on the field, on the stage, in the community, etc. Why then, is our athletic excellence being tarnished? Is it possible to win too much?

In the article, Professor Stephen Sheppard is quoted as saying, “We always hear about the life lessons sports teaches, so wouldn’t the odd loss here and there be therapeutic?” Gee, this is a great line of thinking, don’t you think?

Frankly, I think we should translate this thinking outside of the Purple Bubble. The United States has been the dominant world power for so long, don’t you think we should let someone else have a chance? We have won our fair share of wars, why not let Osama take this one?

Yeah, and wouldn’t it be therapeutic if. . .Jackass won an Oscar? If the Denver Nuggets won the title? If the sun came out this week? If Colonial delivered on time?

Can’t you see your coach before the next game: “Ok, now, I know we are better than Trinity, but we have been winning a little too much lately. Let’s tank it and get some therapeutic lessons.”

Don’t get me wrong; I will be the first person to espouse the “life lessons” of athletics. But is losing necessary to learn those lessons? Sure, losing is part of life, but like anything else, athletics is about trying your best.

I can’t wait to tell Professor Kramer before my test today: “You know Professor, I have been doing pretty well in your class, but I think its time to just bomb a test. I think it will be therapeutic for me. Don’t you agree?”

Prospective students are attracted to Williams because of its academic and athletic excellence. I may be wrong, but not too many kids wake up in the morning and say: “Wow, Williams’ football team is winless, their basketball team hasn’t won a game in the NESCAC and they don’t even have enough kids to field a lacrosse team. That sounds like fun, let’s apply early.”

In the same vein, kids don’t apply to Williams because it is average academically. They apply because it is one of the top schools in the nation. Excellence attracts and breeds excellence. Students come to Williams for the so-called “best of both worlds.”

So what’s the problem? Why can’t we succeed both academically and athletically? The article asserts that some faculty members feel as though too many athletes are being admitted into the school. It’s no secret that athletes get special consideration. But is admitting a student based on their athletic ability any sillier than, whether you like it or not, admitting a student based on the color of their skin, whether or not their parents are Williams grads, whether or not they can blow air into a trumpet, or whether they make a great Hamlet? Absolutely not.

Williams is the envy of every other small college in America. Yet somehow, it is not good enough for itself. Yes, we should continue to strive for improvements, but perhaps we should re-evaluate exactly what is being criticized. Success should be celebrated, not condemned.

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