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March Madness and 'the brute physical facts'


'March Madness is as much a cultural event now as a sporting one, and so it is easy to lose the brute physical facts of the game—the exertion, the torque, the sweat—amid all the other noise: our brackets, our alma-mater nostalgia, our fatigue at the same four ads running in a loop. Ware’s injury was as bleak of a reminder as there could be that the games going on inside our televisions are actually being played by real people somewhere else—fragile people; young people. It is tempting, just a few hours after watching Kevin Ware snap his leg in two places, to feel a twinge of shame at the ever-present but low-lying notion that sports entertainment still has too much of the gladiator ring to it.

'This twinge is real, and shouldn’t be ignored—especially regarding college sports, which is a rotten corporate undertaking posing as a benign educational enterprise. We need to speak up for college athletes, but it would be reductive to ignore the other things that we saw on Sunday evening: the courage of the players—both for Louisville and Duke—who went back out on the court after one of their peers had been maimed; the brilliance of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva as they led their team in the second half; the joy of the Louisville players celebrating at midcourt once the rout was over; the sight of Louisville’s Chane Behanan wearing Ware’s jersey on the sideline in tribute. These players are risking their bodies for our enjoyment. But they are also doing it for themselves, and for each other.'