Why can't University of Kansas football and basketball teams get along. For the second time in two days fights broke out between the two teams on University of Kansas campus. In the first fight involving up to a hundred students, starting guard Tyshan Taylor guard had been sent to the hospital and will miss six weeks of the season. One day later another brawl erupted, but this time the basketball team seemed to walk away, which makes sense when you think of the odds.
I'm not sure why any basketball team would take on a football team. I mean--14 against 80? Point guards against defensive ends? It's simply not fair, actually it borders on just plain dumb.
These fights cut against one of the deepest myths and achievements of college sports, the ability to bring together many and diverse kids and forge a team identity among them. The ability to forge unity through from aggression. This is not the pros where few players are not willing to invest any strong identity in the team they are playing for. After all they may be traded to the team across the field tomorrow, or they may be signed by them as a free agent in a couple years. Pro sports dilutes the passionate team loyalty that college sport depends upon. This esprit de corp accounts for many of the unexpected victories that college sports springs upon us.
The emotional bonding with teammates helps rebuild the identities and self worth of the young players on these teams. In revenue sports, many come from socially disorganized backgrounds where religion, gang and sport may be the only affiliations that enabled them to survive.
The team affiliation and loyalty help structure an alternative identity that enable them to make use of aggression and violence in productive ways. Fellow members becomes guides and models of how to self-control. They also support academic work since modern NCAA rules make playing contingent upon progress towards a degree.
So the team versus team violence in Kansas challenges us all to remember how this loyalty can cut both ways. Team loyalty should be a way station, a means to help young men organize their energy and aggression in a productive way that can graduate them to wider affiliations and loyalties to their school, profession and society. They are midwives for growth.
But team loyalties like all tribal loyalties can engender resentment and anger towards the "other" the outsider, the other team. Few pros buy into their "they are the enemy" but 19 year olds do in their lives, in their games, in their armies and in their sports. So violence flares between the two teams both of the same school, wearing the same colors and same loyalties.
It all seemed to start from simmering anger over a girl who switched loyalties or teams as it were. The switch became a collective insult that spread across both teams. They are kids who have each others back. The anger and insults spread to internet and bar taunts. The fights remind us again and again that the colleges in revenue sports recruit young men from rough backgrounds, exploit that aggression and anger and generate glory, stature and money from it. But this spills out into real life and we need the team loyalty to provide the matrix of discipline and focus to channel and graduate it.
When it turns on itself, we get football on basketball violence in our own colleges.