Why Are We So Interested in Student Athletes?

By T.J. Chiang

 

As a former student athlete and knowing a good number of student athletes, I found the stratification within school athletics very fascinating. More specifically, our veneration for student athletes, which puts them on a higher status on the social ladder compared to non-student athletes.

We idolize these people and treat them with the utmost respect; we put them on a pedestal. We also give scholarships to play for the school. This is true for all student athletes, but more so in high school and top Division colleges. I also observed that the turnout at games are generally high.

What I also find interesting is that there is social stratification within certain sports. Student athletes that play popular sports, such as football, lacrosse, and baseball, are higher on the social stratification ladder than less popular sports, such as golf or fencing.

In my opinion, there are many factors that cause this phenomenon. First, we have a sports culture in the United States. In other words, sports is an integral part of American society. Sports teams are franchises that we watch and discuss over with friends or with strangers at the bar. We have our favorite teams too.

Second, because of our fondness for sports, we venerate the things associated with it, including the sports players. Especially the all-stars.  

Third, one of our values is materialism, where we judge people by their possessions. Talent is considered a possession. Thus, those with talent are venerated compared to those without.

To sum up, social stratification with sports is caused by our fondness with sport and the meanings we prescribe to the different aspects.

T.J. is a senior Sociology major.

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