David Brooks, as he too frequently does, takes an interesting idea and reduces it to trite banalities. Yes, there are some virtues in big time college sports. But there is a price paid, by the vast majority of the players, that makes the analogy to Roman gladiators all-too-fitting.
Teaching at a small college that manages to balance team sports with academic quality, I bristle at the way Brooks glosses over the abysmal academic record of so many big-time university sports programs. The vast majority of Wofford's athletes will never play professional sports after graduation. In that, they are much like their big-time counterparts. But unlike too many of them, Wofford grads will have had coaches who care about academics, and virtually all of the student-athletes will leave the college with a degree that will equip them for a life outside sports.
It would have been nice if Brooks, while effusing over the "common emotional experiences" of the fans, had given a thought to the student-athletes in the arena.