Concluding my overview of Ralph Nader's book, The Seventeen Solutions. Click here to get the rest of the series.
17. Get Back on the Field – Literally
Yes, sports is one of Nader’s solutions. But not the professional sports of today which are all about two things, victory (at all costs) and profit (as much as possible). Professional sports distorts the lives of aspiring athletes, subjecting them to abusive coaches and parents with an anything-to-win attitude that reaches to ever younger athletes.
What Nader envisions is more community-based, perhaps a National Sports Commission. The NSC would make recommendations for a physically fit general citizenry, not just athletes. Here are some of the things Americans want changed in our sports culture.
* Instead of tax funded professional stadiums, there should be tax funded community sports centers. There are numerous health benefits to regular exercise. There are a lot of psychological benefits when sport is done for fun and social bonding rather than for the drive to win. These centers should have activities all ages, genders, and abilities. Get children used to doing, not spectating.
* Physical education reinstated in schools, but designed broadly enough that it fits the needs of all children.
This reminds me of my time in high school gym class (a few decades ago). We were supposed to learn how to play each of the major sports (thankfully, no hockey rink). A person like me who had no skill or interest in these sports didn’t fare well in class and didn’t get a lot of exercise. I’m glad gym didn’t count for my grade point average. It was bad enough that I didn’t want to exercise after high school.
Since then I’ve found swimming (though I don’t have a nearby pool), walking, and riding my bicycle. What if my gym class had been focused on enabling me to exercise in a way suitable for me rather than trying to indoctrinate me into the sports culture?
* More attention should be paid to the safety and health of the players.
* Sports for all Americans. Women’s sports still lag behind men’s sports. There should be plenty of opportunity for sports for people with disabilities.
* Get rid of the anything-to-win attitude so that college sports can get back to the primarily goal of education. That means getting rid of athletic performance targets in scholarships. It also means treating athletes ethically, safely, and humanely – no more bully coaches, no matter what their win-loss record is.