I have a new Q&A for you, and my guest is John U. Bacon, the journalist and book-author. He has written about a variety of subjects, especially sports — especially sports at the University of Michigan. He and I grew up in Ann Arbor, and we are old friends and classmates. (We played on rival junior-high teams, however.) The focus of our podcast is Michigan sports.
Yet the topics we discuss are not local, or merely local: The University of Michigan is dealing with some thorny problems, and they are problems that many other institutions are dealing with, too. I’m talking about race and racism; sexual abuse and silence; and the removal of names and statues.
Fielding Yost is a big name in Ann Arbor. He was a football coach and athletic director, a legend. He was also a racist, with some nasty marks on his record. Should his name be removed from our ice arena? There are other marks on his record, too — better ones. How to assess the whole man?
Yost was born in West Virginia, the son of a Confederate veteran, in 1871. He came a long way, you might say. But maybe not far enough.
John Bacon has written about Fielding Yost here.
You probably know about the sex-abuse scandals — monstrous crimes — at Penn State (football) and Michigan State (gymnastics). There is a similar scandal at Michigan (football). A doctor named Anderson abused players for years. Hundreds of them. He is dead now, as are the men who had authority over him.
Bo Schembechler is another big name in Ann Arbor — a legendary football coach. Did he and others know about the problem and cover it up? Or refuse to act? Should Bo’s name be taken off our football facility? Should the statue of him be taken down? A lot of people think so.
John Bacon has written about all this here.
For a great many people, these issues are black and white. Yes, these men are all guilty, and they should have no place of honor. Or, This is all “woke” BS, another manifestation of our cancel culture. The truth, as John explains, is a lot fuzzier. He handles these issues — both in his writing and in his podcast with me — with great, great care. His scrupulousness and judgment are impressive.
We talk about some lighter issues, thank heaven: like our misspent youths. We also touch on the question, Should college athletes be paid? I know “that ship has sailed,” but I am grousing at it, as it disappears over the horizon.
Anyway, our Q&A, once more, is here.