It’s official now. I am embarrassed to have graduated from the University of Oregon.
The New York Times has an article by Greg Butler entitled Oregon Embraces ‘University of Nike’ Image. Nike, in case you don’t know, is a company that pays people pennies to make sneakers that they then sell for $75 a pair. Who wouldn’t want to embrace being associated with a company like that?
The owner of Nike, Phil Knight, recently paid for the building of something called the Football Performance Center. (I assume this is a fancy term for a training facility.) Bishop tells us:
- The Football Performance Center, which was unveiled publicly this week, is as much country club as football facility, potentially mistaken for a day spa, or an art gallery, or a sports history museum, or a spaceship — and is luxurious enough to make N.F.L. teams jealous. It is, more than anything, a testament to college football’s arms race, to the billions of dollars at stake and to the lengths that universities will go to field elite football programs.
The performance center was paid for through a donation from Phil Knight, a founder of Nike, an Oregon alumnus and a longtime benefactor of the university. During a tour of the complex Wednesday, university officials declined to give a dollar figure, even a ballpark one, insisting they did not know the total cost of a football center where even the garbage cans were picked with great care to match the overall design. (Early design estimates placed the center’s cost at $68 million, which, based on the tour, seemed conservative.)
This is a scandal already. The University of Oregon is a public university, and as such it must maintain transparency about everything it does. Yet it now has a “Football Performance Center” that sounds like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and no one (except Phil Knight, apparently) knows how much it cost to build or about the details of its construction.
Butler describes the overall layout of the place:
- The center is divided into three buildings, all black and shiny rectangular blocks, connected by a sky bridge. Those buildings — and everything around them — are black and boxy by design. Made of black granite, corrugated metal and fritted glass, the elements are arranged like pieces of a Jenga game to show cohesion between units (they also look like the shell of an impenetrable force). A local newspaper quoted an architect who described it as a “Darth Vaderish Death Star.” The designers took that as a compliment.
So, these people feel flattered by being compared to a genocidal murderer. Interesting.
Butler and some other reporters went on a three-hour tour of this facility. This apparently left Butler feeling giddy, because he wrote this:
- For Oregon football, black is the new black, down to the black toilets in the locker room that were described, perhaps in jest, as stealth. The athletes wanted it to look cool, and architects balanced their needs — down to the custom green PlayStation consoles and pool tables made by the same Portland company that designed two for Michael Jackson — with those of the coaches, who are older and spend most of their waking hours in the center and wanted, more than anything, a diverse selection of after-shave.
Throughout the tour, Eugene Sandoval, design partner at ZGF Architects, and Randy Stegmeier, principal interior designer at Firm 151, returned often to their favorite buzzwords, which they said guided the design: sleek, bombastic, cutting-edge. They said things like, “the material palate is elevated to a very sophisticated level” and “you will see sequencing of form and function of space.”
Aside from the more opaque rantings of Nietzsche, this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read. I am going to break it down, in the hopes of being able to tease out the various layers of meaning here.
- For Oregon football, black is the new black, down to the black toilets in the locker room that were described, perhaps in jest, as stealth.
So they likened black toilet bowls to stealth bombers. This may or may not have been a joke.
- The athletes wanted it to look cool…
The word “it” apparently refers to the Football Performance Center, although that doesn’t follow from the previous sentence. And how does he know what the athletes wanted?
- …and architects balanced their needs — down to the custom green PlayStation consoles and pool tables made by the same Portland company that designed two for Michael Jackson…
Huh, what? They use PlayStation consoles and pool tables to train football players?
- …with those of the coaches, who are older…
The coaches are older than the players? No kidding?
- …and spend most of their waking hours in the center and wanted, more than anything, a diverse selection of after-shave.
That’s right! Those youngsters can keep their PlayStation consoles and pool tables. We mature men prefer to spend our time perusing a diverse selection of after-shave. No real man – especially an older real man – simply slaps on some Aqua Velva. And I’m sure these coaches want to smell nice if they’re going to spend their days surrounded by younger men.
- Throughout the tour, Eugene Sandoval, design partner at ZGF Architects, and Randy Stegmeier, principal interior designer at Firm 151, returned often to their favorite buzzwords, which they said guided the design: sleek, bombastic, cutting-edge.
Sleek is the opposite of bombastic.
- They said things like, “the material palate is elevated to a very sophisticated level” and “you will see sequencing of form and function of space.”
Now I know why it was that I hated the architecture students when I was in college.
Later on, Butler tells us:
- The coaches have their own locker room, complete with a hydrotherapy pool and steam shower, made from blue stone slate, and, of course, dozens of kinds of after-shave in front of the bathroom mirrors, which feature built-in televisions.
It seems to me that a built-in television defeats the whole purpose of a mirror.
All this is being done to attract top football talent. What happened at Penn State University should be a warning sign of what can happen when a university becomes all about football. (It’s worth noting here that Phil Knight defended Joe Paterno.) The people currently running the University of Oregon are like blind men stumbling towards a cliff.