Thursday’s Podcast: Stadium Funding, the NCAA, and More

Perhaps because we’re taking next week off, this week’s episode of The 252 is bursting at the seams with interesting conversation.

• Chris Moore and I started by reporting on the results of a public policy simulation we just finished in our History and Politics of Sports class at Bethel: students played different roles in a fictional American city deciding whether to approve public funding for a new football stadium for its existing NFL team and/or a new soccer stadium for an expansion MLS franchise. We ran two parallel simulations… which yielded completely different “city council” votes.

• Then as we continued to wrestle with the implications of COVID-19 for sports, Chris had us consider how our response to the pandemic might carry forward into changed behavior at sporting events (or, maybe, changed configurations in and around stadiums and arenas) in the future.

• In segment two, we talked our students through their two-part midterm exam that’s due next week. They’ll start by giving examples of how sports has both driven social change in U.S. history, and lagged behind it. Then the second essay is a hypothetical: what if a wealthy donor offered Bethel University $10 million… but only if it moved up to Division I of the NCAA and left Division III behind?

The press box being added during the construction of Bethel’s Royal Stadium – Bethel Digital Library

We talked through some of the educational, financial, cultural, and even spiritual implications of this move: what it means for one of our neighboring institutions, which is attempting to make just such a transition; whether Bethel wants any part of a strange economy that has been excused of exploiting the labor of student-athletes, most of whom (in money-making sports like football and basketball) are persons of color; and whether higher ed’s highest level of sporting competition can be consistent with Bethel’s mission as a Christian university. As I’ve discussed here several times, Liberty University is trying to burnish its case to be the “Protestant Notre Dame” (or, maybe better, the “Protestant BYU“), but is that a road Bethel should go down?

• Finally, we closed with three sports-related things to see online:

Chris Moore: This week’s return of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? had Chris thinking about social scientists who use that game show to study risk aversion.

Sam Mulberry: Sam revisited a personal favorite that didn’t quite make The 252‘s Mount Rushmore of Sports Movies: Hoop Dreams, available for rent on Amazon.

Chris Gehrz: Having elsewhere encouraged homeschooling parents to use Google Arts & Culture to take virtual field trips to historical sites and museums, I now mentioned that the same project lets you explore sports history sites ranging from the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City to the ancient Mayan ballcourts at Chichén Itza.

It was a pretty great episode, if I do say so myself. You can check it out at Podbean, Apple Podcasts, or other podcast providers, along with all our neighbors on Channel 3900, including a new film podcast called Video Store.