World Book Day: Indentured by Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss

An extremely intresting read on the exploitive nature of American sports, especially at the college level

Elizabeth Meade
9th March 2021
Twitter @SInow
The world of sport books is oft-overlooked. This is partially due to inaccurate stereotypes about athletes not being smart enough to read and readers not being tough enough to play sport.

The harsh reality of athletic and writing careers alike being virtually all-consuming endeavors doesn't help matters--writers don't have much time for sport, and athletes don't have much time for writing. However, a number of notable works have been written from both inside and outside of the sport world, including the 2016 nonfiction work Indentured: The Battle to End the Exploitation of College Athletes (also published as Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA) by Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss.

The book focuses on the United States' National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the overarching organization that runs, promotes and markets university sport programmes in the US. From the inception of the NCAA to the strict rules it has put in place at one time or another to its various scandals (legal or otherwise), the book is obviously very critical of the institution and how it treats students. Assuming the information that Nocera and Strauss received and synthesised was accurate (and they presented it honestly), I think they have every right to be critical of an association that profits off of university football and basketball at the expense of players' grades, mental health and livelihood.

The authors argue that it is exploitative for universities to make billions of dollars off of games, television airings, sponsorships and jerseys while the players are required to remain strictly amateur and not receive any payment for playing

Twitter @JayBilas

As someone unfamiliar with university sport (outside of a brief experience in the Newcastle Archery Club!) I would need more information to solidify my opinion on the minutiae of the issue.

That said, I recommend the book to anyone interested in US university sport, as I'm sure all fans will have an opinion of some sort on the issues presented. Although the opinions presented are somewhat extreme and I'm not sure how current/accurate the source material is, I think the book will spark a lot of discussion about the true purpose of university sport programmes and what athletes actually are, or should be, getting out of the experience. After all, UK university sport remains relatively uncommercialized in comparison to the US, and while there is still plenty to criticize about the sport culture here, the issues and their scale are largely different. If you aren't interested in the subject, however, I would skip it, because the reader does have to read through a few hundred pages of detailed descriptions of various events taking place surrounding US university sport teams.

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AUTHOR: Elizabeth Meade
Science sub-ed and Chemistry major. Avid reader. Chaos theorist. Amateur batrachologist and historian. Rock fan. Likes cybersecurity and cooking.

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