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Do sports make you an asshole? Well, probably … yes

Great opening piece in the New York Times magazine about sports, questioning whether they’re really the wonderful character-building exercises everybody assumes they are:

Sadly, one of the main lessons sports teach is that the more talented you are as an athlete, the less is expected of you socially or academically, and the more the rules will be bent for you. As James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen demonstrate in their report on college sports, ”The Game of Life” — a book that could have been a bombshell had it only been written in a language other than that of an actuary’s manual — recruited athletes, not just in the Big Ten sports factories but even in the Ivy League, are admitted more readily than their academic equals and do worse, winding up more frequently in the bottom third of the class. They don’t become leaders with any more frequency than the rest of their classmates, and as alumni they don’t contribute any more generously — or, for that matter, inspire generosity in anyone else. (There is, in fact, very little correlation between athletic success and alumni giving.) Female athletes, now that they are being recruited as avidly as the men (and in some cases more avidly, by schools desperate to maintain their Title IX balance), turn out to have much the same profile. Jocks are jocks, it seems, male and female alike, and are perhaps more equivalent than the legislators ever imagined.

Considering that Mark William Lloyd, the captain of my high-school’s football team in the late 80s, also turned out to be a serial rapist who broke into four homes in our neighborhood, I learned about the moral vacuum of high-school sports years ago. He was sent to jail for 10 years; I wonder if he’s out yet.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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