I was one of those students fortunate enough to visit this fine institution prior to my acceptance. Rain poured down from the heavens that day, yet I was elated. The massive buildings overwhelmed me, the hugeness of it all ignited a spark within my soul. I was on a college campus. Here was the place that philosophers, doctors and lawyers all honed the art of acquiring knowledge. I was to join the ranks of the great thinkers of this time.
As I found my way to the Bryan Center, all the prospects of becoming a bona fide college student floated through my young and not yet jaded mind. Upon reaching my destination (McDonald's), I realized there was a rather long line. I was a bit annoyed but still managed to enjoy the sites and sounds of my surroundings. Then as if from nowhere strolled a young man whom I paid little attention to, until I realized almost everyone's head was turned to stare. Students whispered frantically pointing in his direction. Because I have a functioning brain and watch college basketball from time to time, I concluded that this was the honorable Jason Williams. He walked right up to the counter past all the admiring faces, and with a quickness, his order was comfortably resting in his outstretched hand. This was my introduction to the privileged world of athletes, particularly male basketball players.
Now that I am a sophomore, I am becoming adjusted to the fanatic sports fans that attend Duke. The various conversations that I listen to on the bumpy rides from East to West Campus never cease to amaze me. Young men and women breathlessly speak of their encounters with stars such as Chris Duhon and Dahntay Jones as if these athletes are superhuman. Just the other day, I was fortunate enough to overhear a conversation in which a student was being mocked and chided by his comrades for not knowing some names of the incoming class of men basketball players. One student went so far as to say something to the effect of, "What rock have you been living under?"
The reality is that some students on this campus eat, sleep and breathe basketball. Their lives are consumed by blue body paint, tents amidst the freezing rain and closets filled to the brim with Duke paraphernalia. Any opportunity for these fanatic students to give a coy wave or even have a trivial conversation with one of these athletes is pure and utter success.
Off campus, Duke's reputation as a sports team rather than a challenging and prominent intellectual institution is more pervasive. Upon informing others that I attend Duke University, they react, "Oh, so you know Jason Williams." Of course, I see the logical thought process this person employed: If I attend Duke University then it follows that Jason and I go out every chance we get. Every now and then, a person will be knowledgeable enough to observe that Duke University has an excellent medical or liberal arts program.
Many athletes take their status for granted. From football to women's basketball, there lingers an inevitable feeling of superiority. Some may label me jealous or say that I have hate in my blood, but don't get me wrong: I acknowledge that an athlete's life is not an easy one, and many are slaves to the institution. Time is not theirs. Endless hours are spent working their often tired bodies to the point of exhaustion. In addition to the physical toil looms the general burden of class work. Yet these difficulties are mere trifles when the hefty reward is free education and loyal fans. What person wouldn't love to be in the limelight? What a feeling it must be to look into a crowd of bodies and see your name painted on the fans, with hundreds chanting your name.
Clearly society's obsession with athleticism over intelligence continues to be perpetuated as professional male athletes make exorbitant amounts of money while doctors and teachers struggle to make ends meet. Can anyone really tell me that contemporary American society does not have its priorities out of order?
Nikyatu (Nikki) Jusu is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs every other Thursday.
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