Big schools, big money

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If there were a prize to honor the most likely to KO his readers with entertaining sports stories, I’d expect John Canzano of The Oregonian to be among that heavyweight crown’s contenders.  Using artful language, Canzano deals with facts about players and games and, to my knowledge, avoids fiction.

Nevertheless, a recent column by Canzano just may have been a work of fiction.  In an Nov. 13 column titled, “An OSU fan breaks his vows,” it struck me as possible he was playing with his readers in that genre.  His story identified a Peter Lossner, 72 and retired, seeking a divorce from Oregon State University football, “After 60 years, I give up.  I feel dead inside.”

Lossner, we’re told, fell in love with the Beavers football program in 1953.  When he reached college age he enrolled at OSU and, after flying B-52 missions in Vietnam, returned to the university for postgraduate studies.

Through the years, he has continued to be a dedicated fan, wearing Beavers t-shirts, sporting OSU license plate frames and bumper stickers, attending OSU football games, et cetera.  So, Lossner considered himself a happily married fan.  However, after years of disappointing game outcomes, like the ups and downs of the current season, Lossner will separate with intent to end the marriage.

Canzano tells us Lossner is heading to Los Angeles and the University of Southern California (USC).  The final straw in an unbroken 60-year relationship occurred when OSU lost to Arizona State and then, heaping insult on injury, the University of Washington, OSU’s fourth straight loss this year.  Lossner’s heartbreaking final chapter in his OSU relationship had to be the last-minute, one-point Civil War loss at Autzen, presumably sending the former fan to a marriage broker near the Trojans’ football practice facility.

Canzano may have made up this story to prod the Beavs to get enthused for the UW game as he wrote it to appear on the Friday before that game.  We now know, whether fact or fiction, it did not work the desired outcome.

Meanwhile, personal experience has revealed that it’s difficult, if not impossible, no matter how hard I try during a bad year, to give up for good on any team for which I have given my love and affection. Heck, I still manage a high from reading that my old high school team won a game.  When it comes to universities I’ve attended (Oregon’s Pacific and U of O), I can curse and cuss my heart out but will predictably return as a devotee when a losing year’s fortunes are reversed the next season.

What’s deeply sad for me, though, is seeing big-name universities across the country, including OSU and the Unversity of Oregon, become nearly only about big business and bookkeeping, sometimes called the “show me the money” syndrome.  This syndrome’s displayed when more dollars are put into athletic facilities than science labs, when gobs of money and special services are passed out “under the table” to what are supposed to be amateur athletes and university students, when coaches are paid more than university presidents, and when “foreign” recruits are mainly brought in from outside the state, that is, southern California for OSU and UO players (the chant nowadays should be “Go Californians!”).

Further, it should be of concern to Americans when millions upon millions of dollars are annually poured into athletics while the U.S. falls further and further behind the other industrialized nations of the world in our ability to compete with them and their university graduates.  This condition worsens with each passing year.

The whole matter is really beyond sad but it’s the newly-embraced culture of the country.  The bottom line: We’re broke warring overseas and we’re morally at sea with our 21st century values.   We’re already paying a steep price in every facet of our society’s real needs for this sports’ form of excessiveness; future generations will pay even more as the fall gets faster and more and more extreme.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)

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