Five Best Wednesday Columns

Allison Schrager defends the NCAA, Ian Crouch on Muhammad Ali's Tea Party turn, Anne Perkins on Gwyneth Paltrow and "conscious uncoupling," Jonathan Bernstein considers Paul Ryan as a 2016 nominee, Katrina vanden Heuvel on the Republican healthcare hold-up. 

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Allison Schrager at Reuters defends the NCAA. “Many find it outrageous that with so much money at stake, the players aren’t paid. This debate normally leads to two different solutions: either pay student-athletes and acknowledge their true status as university employees, or focus on universities’ true purpose — education — and only admit academically qualified students, effectively ending Division I college sports as we know it,” Schrager writes. “From an economic perspective, however, the current system is a better alternative for most athletes. Replacing the NCAA with a pay-for-play system is not the answer.”

Ian Crouch at The New Yorker on Muhammad Ali’s Tea Party turn. A new Mitch McConnell campaign ad curiously deploys two sports icons to illustrate his the Senator's love of America — including, horrifyingly, a shot of Duke (not his hometown Kentucky team) celebrating an NCAA basketball title. “The Duke blunder was a simple, silly mistake. Yet there is another curious, and less remarked-upon, image in the ad. Bookended by short clips meant to evoke the pride of Kentucky—a waving American flag, horses racing under harness—are a few seconds of black-and-white footage, from 1960, of Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), in Rome, wearing the Olympic gold medal that he won in boxing,” Crouch writes. "It’s important for a political ad to get its sports right, but turning Muhammad Ali into a Tea Party icon is far more ridiculous than mistaking the colors on a basketball uniform.”

Anne Perkins at the Guardian on Gwyneth Paltrow and “conscious uncoupling.” “The suspicion that there is a way of being from which ordinary people are excluded, by their sheer, well, ordinariness, is now confirmed by the revelation of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's divorce, or rather their "conscious uncoupling", which turns out to be a holistic form of splitting up,” Perkins writes. “The key is not to get mad with the other person, because you will end up trapped in an exoskeleton of anger. But some realities can't be altered. You have messed up other lives. It is quite likely that the only person feeling good about all this may be you. Hope that thought doesn't mess up the inner cathedral.”

Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg View considers Paul Ryan as a 2016 nominee. “Is Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin a plausible presidential nominee? Ryan is an interesting hybrid because he is both the House Budget Committee chairman and the former Republican nominee for vice president. The question is whether he has conventional credentials for a presidential run,” Bernstein writes. “Nominees don't come from the House because everyone "knows" that nominees don't come from the House. Consequently, it's a lot harder for candidates from the House to gather the resources needed to make a serious run. It’s not clear whether Ryan actually would prefer a tough presidential race to a career within the House. If he does, I do think he’s a plausible nominee.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel at The Washington Post on the Republican healthcare hold-up. “With one week remaining before the March 31 deadline for health coverage this year, a Republican filing a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act has become a familiar, if tiresome, sight. But Republicans filing a lawsuit against the law on the grounds of copyright infringement? That’s something new,” vanden Heuvel writes. “The 19 states that are refusing to expand Medicaid aren’t just leaving low-income Americans out to dry — they’re also leaving billions of health-care dollars on the table. While Bobby Jindal busies himself over a billboard, his state’s internal analysis found that Medicaid expansion would save Louisiana as much as $134 million in 2015 alone. The real cost of Republican cruelty, however, cannot be measured in dollars and cents, but in people’s lives."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.