Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Sports Obsession Holds Boys Back in College

This school year, men will make up only 42 percent of the nation's college graduates. The problem? Sports! Men are obsessed by them, while women hit the books and speed ahead in academics.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This school year, men will make up only 42 percent of the nation's college graduates. And while experts debate the reasons why men lag behind, commentator Frank Deford says sports plays a role.

FRANK DEFORD: By now, all our schoolboys and schoolgirls are back in the little red schoolhouses, studying diligently. Well, the schoolgirls are.

Books have been written, like The War Against Boys, to suggest that American schools are set up to favor girls. And there's even talk that we need affirmative action to help these intellectually handicapped boys. Or if not, we're going to end up with an American society of egg-headed executive woman and ham-headed worker men where the gals do all the heavy thinking while the guys come home from their jobs flipping burgers and spend their downtime playing video games and watching poker and arena football on TV.

This fall, 58 percent of the U.S. college population will be female, and more women stay in college and more apply all the time. When this freshman class graduates in 2010, the Department of Education estimates that as many as three out of every five diplomas may very well go to women.

Now there are a lot of reasons which may account for this, including the dread possibility that the weaker sex, so-called, may be, well, simply smarter than we dim brutes. But I certainly think that at least some of this scholastic imbalance may be accounted for by the fact that from an early age, boys are directed towards sports and rewarded more for their athletic prowess than for their classroom work.

For boys, readin', writin' and ‘rithmetic have been replaced by a new set of three R's: runnin', reboundin' and let's go to the replay.

It isn't either just that classic inner city delusion where little boys bet their future on becoming a great multi-millionaire sports superstar. No, in our middle classes all too many parents push children to excel in sport so that their child might win a college athletic scholarship.

This is the cockeyed system we've developed in the United States wherein the free road to a college education is through a tennis court or a soccer field, while someone more accomplished in the school classroom has a harder time getting to the college classroom.

How else do colleges desperately try to attract more males? Well, even for those geeks who can't play a sport, more and more colleges offer sports management courses. Yes sirree, Bob! We're going to have the best-run sports franchises in the world? Of course they'll all be owned by Indians and Chinese and women.

Another desperate admissions ploy is for small colleges to field football teams. It's much the costliest sport around, but football is a game played virtually only by men, so that helps to artificially inflate that shrinking male college ratio.

Well, there is one hope for us guys. Because of Title IX, more and more girls are being introduced to sports. And studies show that female athletes eventually start to act like their male colleagues. That is, their grades go down, they lose interest in other campus activity.

Here's our chance, men. Don't protest Title IX; support it! Get those little girls away from their homework and out on the playground with us! It may be our only hope to keep running America in the style to which we fellows are accustomed.

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MONTAGNE: The comments of Frank Deford, senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated. He joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford