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College football is too dangerous. College

football subtracts from the academic mission

of a university. It's hopelessly corrupt. There's

too much money involved. And it's a travesty

that the players aren't getting a fair share of

the loot.

Those were the winning points put forward

by writers Buzz Bissinger—yes, Mr.

"Friday Night Lights" hates college football—

and Malcolm Gladwell in an Intelligence

Squared debate at New York University over

whether college football should be banned.

They bested sports columnist Jason Whitlock

and author and former NFL/college player

Tim Green.

It was an entertaining and interesting

debate. These are smart men. The room was

full of smart, engaged people.

Best line of the night? Said Bissinger, "A

great country changes."

That is true. Great countries work to

solve social ills, particularly issues of inequality.

Great countries work to create access to

opportunity. Great countries aspire to create

an ethical, ambitious, caring and intellectually

active populace.

And great countries debate issues. That

this debate will have less staying power in our

culture than an average tweet from Lady

Gaga—there is zero momentum behind the

notion of banning college football—is not our

present issue. Our present issue is whether

you, fair college football fan, should feel a

twinge of guilt over not caring why some intellectual

types might think college football

should be banned.

Yes, you should. So step out of the warm

glow of your fandom for a moment.

Gladwell focused almost exclusively on

head injuries suffered by players who were

college students—officially amateurs—and

not paid professionals. That should concern

us all. Head injuries in football are serious

business. The good news is that, after media

pressure, the NCAA and NFL are taking head

injuries seriously. There is reason to be optimistic

that football can be made safer.

Bissinger, who at times channeled comedian

Lewis Black with his sputtering passion,

said football—and sports in general—had no

place at universities that should be exclusively

about higher learning. Of football, he

said, "It sucks all the air out of the room." Not

unreasonably, he pointed out that in a highly

competitive world economy, education will

become even more important, and U.S. universities

that spend millions on football, football

facilities and football coaches while

cutting computer science departments are

failing in their primary mission.

Everybody in the room lamented that

college players are not paid.

Green and Whitlock countered with the

positives of football, including providing

 scholarships to young men who otherwise 15

 couldn't afford college, building character,

promoting diversity and building a sense of

community at a university and even within

an entire state. Or, in the case of the SEC, an

entire region.

And both, not unreasonably, pointed out

that once you start banning things, you step

onto a slippery slope. Said Whitlock of living

with freedom, "You can't have the free without

the dumb."

Perhaps it's a facile point, but we could

make America better by banning a lot of popular

things: cigarettes, booze, fast food, sugar

and reality TV. Without those, we'd be

healthier and smarter. We could go further

with our Utopian vision and make a law that

politicians must go to jail for a week every

time they willfully mislead the public with a

false statement about themselves or their opponents.

We could require all Americans to

go to the theater weekly and read all of

Jonathan Franzen's novels.

Of course, then we wouldn't be America.

Freedom and capitalism and the messiness

they sometimes create inexorably spiral

through the circulatory system of our nation. It

is often for better and sometimes for worse, but

it's who we are. "Football has to be tolerated,

just like Ronald McDonald," Whitlock opined.

There was some garbling of facts on the

ban football side. Talking about chronic traumatic

encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive

degenerative disease of the brain found in

people with a history of repetitive brain

trauma, can scare an audience. Yet it's also

critical to note that concussions and anecdotal

evidence about debilitated former football

players have not been causally connected

by scientific research, as Gladwell repeatedly

implied. We know a concussion is bad and

multiple concussions are worse, but it's irresponsible

to point to Junior Seau's suicide

and say, "See!" (No one specifically did that

Tuesday night, by the way.)

Now I'll make note of a quibble that is

also the basis for my position. Neither

Bissinger nor Gladwell know much about

college football. It's not just that they haven't

played, it's that they aren't educated on the

subject. That is where most critics of college

football come from: the ignorant. I've been

around college football much of my life, and

professionally since 1997. My take on the

sport, and the take of most folks who have

been around the sport for a good deal of time,

is that the good far outweighs the bad. If the

sport is far from pure, it's also far from impure.

And I'd be glad to debate that point

with anyone. They'd lose.

Complete the steps below as your argument analysis of Ted Miller's "Should College Football Be Banned?" pp. 200-201

Formatting should be double-spaced, 12-point font, numbered pages, stapled. No folders are necessary.

1. Outline Miller's essay by paragraph. Complete sentences are not necessary.

2. Using bullet points, identify Miller's main argument(s) in favor of keeping college football.

3. Using bullet points, identify the counter-argument(s) that Miller mentions AND how he counters them (if he counters them).

4. Using bullet points, identify the main stylistic choices Miller makes to advance his argument. Refer to our class notes and textbook for style choices.

5. In one paragraph, identify what you believe are the strengths and weaknesses of Miller's argument.

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