As middle schoolers repopulate Columbia, it looks like cooler fall temperatures are approaching, along with the sporting seasons to come.
Mizzou football, who is part of the elite of the SEC, has arguably become a type of minor league for the NFL.
There has been a huge disconnect between supposedly amateur college athletes and pros, realized in spectacular fashion when college baseball’s top players cross the chasm via the NFL Draft to become instant multi-millionaires.
Beyond legitimate offers of scholarships, free room and board, and other on-campus amenities, there has apparently been a black market in compensation under the table at many schools.
This avenue has opened up quite recently to allow college amateur sportsmen to profit from their name, image and likeness.
In fact, Friday’s Missourian reported that Mizzou Athletics just hired a new assistant athletic director specifically to “better support student-athletes in the NIL space.”
It’s a new era where “(m)maximizing every NIL opportunity for our student-athletes is of critical importance and we are positioning Mizzou as one of the national innovators in NIL in the months and years to come.”
It’s a game-changer in ways we don’t yet fully realize: how fans connect with players, as well as with schools’ recruiting efforts and players’ motivations to transfer between teams.
Speaking of transfers, a number of top professional golfers have been brought in with big offers from a fledgling competition circuit from Saudi Arabia.
The current PGA Tour has gone rogue under the collar, threatening to blacklist players and sue would-be thieves, and suddenly finding the right inspiration to criticize the Saudi government’s record on rights humans.
My wife follows the St. Louis Cardinals closely and ranks golf there watching the paint dry.
She emphatically remarked that the PGA Tour is proving to be a cheeky near-monopoly that “looks like a bunch of rich guys throwing a tantrum.”
But seriously, with racial equality in mind these days, the late basketball great Bill Russell was honored when his #6 jersey was retired forever in the NBA.
For a great player his particular team does it, like the Boston Celtics once did, that’s one thing, but for all teams it’s very rare.
It’s up there with how color-barrier pioneer Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 was retired in all of Major League Baseball.
Another recent piece of how modern culture is gaining prominence in the world of sports is seeing the LGBTQIA+ rainbow hue on captain’s armbands, team logos, and flags.
The leagues now routinely impose sanctions and boycotts on states where legislatures might propose or enact laws inconsistent with this topic.
Rules for transgender athletes are the final area that multiple states may get involved in, such as defining a female athletic competitor as someone whose gender is listed on their original birth certificate.
Like the delicate question of who should use which public restrooms, this trend fits with changing society, with individual insights coming from tennis great Martina Navratilova and Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Olympic champion Bruce Jenner).
This subject was far from mainstream news ten years ago.
Meanwhile, the United States women’s soccer team won their lawsuit demanding facilities and equal pay to their male counterparts.
They could now score a top game with the English, who are fresh off a Euro 2022 championship win, beating Germany 2-1 in front of a record crowd.
Also across the pond, the world’s richest English professional men’s Premier League continues to siphon off the best talent on the planet.
This summer’s signing was Norwegian phenom Erling Haaland to Manchester City superclub Dortmund in Germany, who last summer sold Jadon Sancho to Manchester United – each went for around $100m.
The German Bundesliga continues to lose its global star power as, boo-hoo, my man Robert Lewandowski left Munich for the shining lights of Barcelona last month.
Poland’s technically superb goalscoring machine thrived at Dortmund until 2014 when he became too good for them.
After years of a reckless spending spree, FC Barcelona hit a revenue wall when empty COVID-era stadiums necessitated a historic sale of stars last summer, including the greatest of all time Lionel Messi in Paris.
The following season’s lackluster run with remaining second-tier talent inspired fanatical Catalan fans to pull out the torches and pitchforks, demanding a side capable of coming to terms with perennial domestic rivals Real Madrid once again.
So, by mimicking the dodgy fiscal chemistry typical of politicians in Madrid, Rome and Athens, the management of the ‘Barca’ team have somehow concocted a way to attract new premium signings like Lewandowski for the fans to cheer on. circus, at least for a while.
Sport is often both the engine and the mirror of the evolution of society.
Steve Spellman, a permanent resident of the Columbia area and political observer, writes twice a month for the Missourian.
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