Sportsphobia was an Analogy

To the Editor:

I’d like to weigh in on the matter of Mike Muska’s [Feb. 23] column on “sportphobia” here at Oberlin. He has my utmost sympathy for the plethora of outraged public reactions. There are two things I learned about the Oberlin student body during my stint as the Review’s resident curmudgeon: First, there is nothing whatsoever that can be said, written –– or even thought, sometimes it seems –– on this campus that someone will not misinterpret grossly. And always to the detriment of the original source. Second, there are just too damn many people on this campus who take themselves (and their opinions) way too seriously. And, boy, did all that hit the fan in this case!
C’mon, use your brains for something other than making excuses for arriving late for class. Mike did not equate sportphobia with racism (as in “sportphobia = racism/sexism/etc.); he made an analogy. Now, I think you all had to prove you understood what an analogy was just to get in here –– they’re part of the SAT. It goes something like this: sportphobia : racism : : firecracker : atomic bomb. It says they have a relation, not an equality. If the orders of magnitude were the same it wouldn’t BE an analogy!
I’ll repeat a story I told in print in the Review two years ago. I was sitting in Stevenson with a friend of mine (now graduated) who was a voice major, talking about this very topic of sportphobia at OC. He literally didn’t get it –– it was SO ingrained in his cortex that he didn’t even see it AS a phobia. So I tried to help him out with an analogy. How would HE feel if he gave his senior recital to an audience of seven people –– four of whom ignored him and his efforts and chatted loudly amongst themselves during the whole thing? He literally levitated out of his seat in indignation. Yet it then took about two or three minutes of expectant staring on my part before he finally figured out my analogy.
Outside of a handful of cases of arrested adolescent development (in just a few sports), varsity athletes at Oberlin do NOT strut around campus acting like they think they’re hot shit. Most of us wear our team t-shirts and monogram jackets not only out of pride in the effort and sacrifice they represent, but also to save those efforts and sacrifices from total anonymity. In fact, few Oberlin athletes are anywhere NEAR as egotistical about their extracurricular activities as a lot of musicians, actors, dancers, artists and writers I’ve known on this campus. We practice at least as long and hard as the rest of you, taking precious time away from our schoolwork and studies. Where we ARE different is that we take those activities outside our protected walls of ivy to compare our efforts mano a mano with students at other colleges, risking injury and humiliation for the chance to represent our college and schoolmates. This just makes us different, not better. But it sure as hell doesn’t make us WORSE! You have to remember that most of Oberlin’s athletes do this IN ADDITION TO the extracurricular activities that our fellow students pursue, not instead of. We are ALSO musicians, artists, writers, dancers, actors, activists and honors-caliber students. Every Commencement program lists dozens of varsity athletes as winners of prestigious departmental prizes and scholarships, as well as on the rolls of Phi Beta Kappa. Yet the majority of our fellow students persist in regarding participation in varsity athletics as a negative. Even perhaps a bit subhuman, at times! Too many of you believe that we should honor and support you in your music, art, dance, activism, etc. –– but heaven forfend you should return the courtesy!
I know it’s probably asking WAY too much for you to overcome this phobia of yours to the point of actually giving us the same support you expect of us in your own extracurriculars. But your respecting our extracurricular activities as much as you would have us respect yours…. Well, I really don’t think the Golden Rule was intended to be negotiable.

–Mary Margaret Towey
College senior 


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