Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sports

Last night there was a truly wonderful special on The History Channel about The War Of 1812. I am a bit of a history buff, you know, and will watch anything that has something to do with how this nation was shaped, or formed. I’m fairly certain there are those who think The War Of 1812 is no way to spend a Friday night, but for me, it just doesn’t get much better.
The downside to this is it really doesn’t get much better. The History Channel has fallen to airing programming that can at best be described as “filler material” and at worst it’s just plain junk. There are shows chasing mythical monsters that are never quite caught, ghost chasing shows where there are no ghosts caught, some inane show about pawn shops, and how that qualifies as history I have no idea, and for some reason, the timber industry has its own show. The Discovery Channel with its blow- things- up- shows and gross occupations shows is nearly as bad, and it takes a while to find some of the programming that Discovery was once famous for.
If I kept a log of what I watched on the television most of it would be DVD movies. I’ll watch the news if it’s on when I’m eating a meal, but mostly I watch football and baseball, and it was fun to watch some of the Olympics.
In the last year or so, it seems that the news may as well dedicate a slot to “Professional Athletes Behaving Badly”. Rape, drug use, assault, gun play, and pretty much any and every species of criminal behavior, with each one seemingly trying to outdo the last for stupidity. Really, all this started with Michael Vick, and the dog fighting. A man who was making millions of dollars to play sixteen games a year could not bring himself to just stay the hell away from the kind of scum that gets involved in dog fighting. What does that say about the type of people who play football?
There doesn’t seem to be a baseball player alive who hasn’t taken illegal drugs. There doesn’t seem to be a basketball player who is unarmed. The most famous golfer alive has more mistresses than some basketball teams have arrests for gun possession. And all the while taxpayers are forking over billions and billions of dollars for new stadiums and they’re filling the stands no matter how much it costs, and worst of all, we are creating the idea that our kids should be like this when they grow up.
As the business of sports becomes bigger and bigger, the stakes for winning also become bigger, and bigger, even at the High School and college level and there is no end in sight. Players who are still very young are under incredible pressure to win at any costs. Player are getting faster, bigger, more powerful, and in football, this has equated to brain injuries in the National Football league which are inflicted at a higher rate than those suffered by the men and women in combat. Retirees of the NFL have a 250% higher rate of degenerate brain disease than the national average. These stats are only for those who have retired within the system, not for those players who did not make the cut, or only player for a few years.
The purpose of professional sports is to sell television advertising. There isn’t any other reason for the people running the show to run the show. Young men and women are maimed and injured and unless there is some outcry about some horrific injury then we all agree what is is what must be, and we flip over to the game on the other channel during the injury timeout. We have a social contract with these people that states they know the risks for the big paycheck, and if they lose use of their limbs then they chose that path. We will cheer them on until they are carted off and once they are carted off, we will forget them entirely.

I have been a fan of both baseball and football since I was old enough to stare mesmerized at a television. Yet in all these years, in all this time, sitting here right now, I cannot give you one single positive aspect of my life that has come from watching professional sports. I cannot name you even one of the men whose packets I’ve passed who has ever offered me any sort of financial help in the bad times, even though I have been a loyal team support even if my team, (my team?) was having a bad year. I cannot name you one, not one, sports figure who has ever come down from the mountain and said, “I am rich beyond any reckoning and I will not give my money in such a way to benefit mankind forever.”

When the police went to Tiger Woods’ home to question him about his wreck, his publicist, his publicist mind you, turned them away. Twice! What does that tell you about the world this man lives in, and the world where the real power lies? If an ordinary mortal is accused of rape that person will be questioned by the police but a recent incident shows the accused rapist posing with a policeman in a photograph. How do you think that cop’s daughter would feel if it turns out the man beside her father is guilty of the crime? But you and I know that will never happen because the rapist in question will pay a rather large settlement and the charges will be dropped.

Have you ever heard of such a story before? That’s my point.

This is treason. I’ve been a part time sports writer now for years, and I’ve been a rabid fan of football forever. At some point, and that point has arrived, the people who play the game poison the game they play.

The quality of the programming in sports has been diminished by the inadequacy, the inhumanity, the meagerness, the sheer lack of character of those who play a kid’s game for millions of dollars.

I’m leaving the game.

Take Care,
Mike

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