Guest Viewpoint: Response to the Mariota Center

Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich walks the team out of the Hatfield Dowlin Complex. (Cole Elsasser/Emerald)

***Editor’s Note: The following was contributed by Alex Morrison, a University of Oregon graduate. This piece reflects the view of the author and not those of Emerald Media Group. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to [email protected].

It’s always kind of funny to read about how athletes are portrayed by someone who has little contact with them.

It’s always something negative, something blown out of proportion, something the athletes themselves can almost never defend because of the omnipresent public magnifying glass.

In regards to the recent article written about the Mariota Center and its reminder of “wrong priorities,” there are some fair points made and some glaring issues from people with an agenda.

My hopes in this is to bring a little perspective to points I’ve heard made by people that simply don’t know what they’re talking about, and most often by people that have little or no common ground with athletes so they attack their way of living when athletes simply would not do the same.

I played college football at a small college where we were lucky if we got shorts that year for daily doubles. We worked out in the basement of a stadium where I saw more people get hurt from the equipment than get stronger from it. We didn’t have multimillion dollar anything, let alone a new facility every few years. I understand the jealously in that first hand.

I brought that understanding and connection with athletes to my time at the U of O as I pursued a Master’s degree. For nearly three years I tutored athletes in the Jaqua Center. I interacted, talked, laughed, learned and taught almost everyday during my time there.

Craziest thing was… I got to know these athletes. I got to understand their interests outside of sports. I got to understand the struggles they go through, just like every other student on campus.

But for some reason many people on this campus seem to forget that. They seem to fixate on the negatives. They seem to look at one incident, cast a wide net and paint with broad strokes.

How fair is that?

If you or anybody else had to live what they do you might have a bit of appreciation for their 10-12 hour days. I know students and staff members alike live out these days with similar hours, but if that’s the case what makes your hours more important?

Do I think the facilities are overkill? Absolutely. Do I think these athletes have deserved and earned these facilities? Absolutely. How many national championships have the track team and acrobatics and tumbling team brought home? How many sold out crowds has the football team drawn? How many playoff appearances have the baseball, softball, volleyball, and basketball teams earned?

But people don’t look at that.

You look at Stabile’s comments about tying sports culture to a “detrimental party culture.” Maybe I’m wrong but isn’t this a college campus? So you’re telling me that if you or anybody else went to a campus without any sports teams you wouldn’t see any partying or bars? Come on.

That’s not just athletes, that’s 18-23 year olds everywhere.

I completely agree there should be an academic facelift with some facilities. Allen Hall’s revamp makes it one of the most beautiful on campus, just like Lillis or the Rec Center or the Lokey Science Facility. Oregon has quickly become a premier academic institution and should reflect that.

But also keep in mind every building with a ‘Knight’ on it, or the Knight scholarships, or the endowments, etc. Keep an open mind to the fact there have been major contributions to the university as well. But I digress.

My biggest issue in articles like this boil down to one simple fact that’s always confused me: A vast majority of the time, the people who are quickest to cast blame, point fingers and bastardize athletes are those with the least amount of contact with athletes.

Plain and simple.

Many of you have never talked to the athletes. Many of you don’t want to. If you did you might be surprised at how bright and optimistic they are. You might be surprised they all don’t aspire to be professional athletes, and instead want to change the world in a positive way with their work.

You might be surprised that every single one of them is just as normal as you and me. But because they’re put on a pedestal in the media many of you give yourselves the right to bombard them with reasons to be your scapegoat for a much bigger problem in our educational system.

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