Wow! Could someone please tell me what the hell happened
to the wonderfully entertaining world of sports? All I remember
as a child was a pure, simpler form of joy--nothing but a
ball or a bat and a bunch of guys out there playing a game
for nothing other than the sheer exhilaration of competition
and kinetic life. Okay, they made a few bucks here and there
even in the seventies, but nothing like the explosion of money
that's corrupted all sport since the fancy, eighteen bedroom
HOME became more important than the RUN.
I am no insider. I am not privy to contract negotiations
or scouting reports. What I am is the guy who looks forward
week in and week out to the battles taking place on some distant
turf or in a squared ring. I am the consumer. I may even be
so bold as to proclaim myself the target audience. I choose
these words because I know that there are many more exactly
like me. How do I know this? Because every time I have the
opportunity to relax and enjoy a great game, I see a stadium
or an arena filled with human beings coming together and sharing
a vicarious vision of their own private, ultimate satisfaction.
Watching sport is the utmost form of fantasy.
But day by day, trading deadline by court hearing, this fantasy
world caves in upon itself. I am not writing this to complain
about it--life does what it does, or else how else could you
explain the platypus? But what I am feeling is, for lack of
a better description, saddened. Sport no longer feels unchained
or given license to do what it will. Sport is now, and unfortunately
probably forever, shackled and manipulated by mandates, deadlines,
police reports, and salary caps. It is scarred by scandal,
by narcotics, and by corruption.
We sports fans used to watch SportCenter. Although the name
hasn't changed, it now comes across more like NewsCenter.
We used to watch highlights of soaring athletes and mighty
team efforts. Now we watch press conferences, rap videos,
and judicial arraignments.
My disenchantment probably has a lot to do with the fact
that my purest sports pleasure is watching the United States
Men's National Team play soccer around the world. They do
not play for money; they play for the pure honor and satisfaction
of wearing their country's colors and giving all they have
against the more established, traditional powerhouse nations
in Europe and South America.
Of course, all the other games are still played, and we continue
to watch. Unfortunately though, much of the sideshow makes
its way into the marrow of the game itself. I feel my trust
in the integrity of sport waning.
I question referee objectivity when so much stands to be
gained. And lost. I see a man telling a city how thankful
he is to be playing there, only to see him a week later in
a different uniform, in that new city, telling them the exact
Maybe I'm just getting cynical as I progress in years. I'm
the first to admit that this might just be my little drama.
Maybe if I take a good look around me right now, I'll snap
out of this pessimistic rut and fly around the living room
this weekend with a Budweiser and a corndog, watching Canadian
Ahhh, the Olympics, now there's something that can't be tainted,
right? Damn. Over the years, many athletes have been stripped
of their hardware for illegal drug enhancements or illegal
citizenship documentation. This past week in Salt Lake City,
at least three athletes tested positive for illegal drugs
and lost their gold medals.
And the judges are corrupt, or at least capable of being
corrupted. So many Olympic golds are won or lost by the smallest
fraction of one person's opinion, that it only takes the slightest
slip of that person's integrity to fulfill or shatter another
person's dreams. Need I even say those two little words? French
Well, at least the Olympic spirit is alive in those sports
that are timed with precision instruments and measured in
goals and precious thousandths of a second. But now I have
to worry about the guy who's pushing the start button on the
timer. (Oh yeah, and what about those disqualifications?)
On SportCenter the other night, I saw that the San Francisco
49ers had given Steve Mariucci "permission" to speak
with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Permission? Would he get in
trouble if he accidentally ran into them at a local bar, and
they decided to have a beer together? I wonder if he needs
a hall pass to go to the restroom in the middle of practice.
Since when did a contract limit to whom you may or may not
speak? I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the Buccaneers
had just wanted to ask him how the wife and kids were doing
and if he'd made any nice plans for summer vacation this year.
So now that he actually gets to speak to them, is there a
time limit on how long they may actually converse, or does
Steve really get to make his 1-800-dial-right-down-the-center
Okay, even I've gotten tired of my whining by now and want
to bring this thing to a close. Perceptions of a past, better
time are invariably going to occur in every individual's mind
with the passing of time. I will always believe that the men
who played the sports we love today in the annals of forgotten,
black and white times were pushed by the purest sincerity
and passion for the game. They did not make millions of dollars
and were not forced to live under the scrutiny of today's
superstars. But this isn't necessarily about them. This is
about a world gone crazy with rules and profits and the need
And yet we will continue watching. I know I will. I still
cheer and swoon with the fortunes of my favorite teams. Ultimately
all this hype and fanfare still comes down to moments of greatness.
There will still be those precious excerpts of time when a
Michael Jordan nails the game-winning jumper to win his sixth
NBA title. There will still be "The Field Goal,"
ending one of the most exciting Super Bowls in the history
of the NFL. And in the future, there will be Landon Donovan
scoring three goals against Italy in the semi-final of the
World Cup, or Pete Sampras coming out of retirement and adding
another record Wimbledon championship.
At the end of it all, I will ultimately remember the euphoria
of the actual sports moment, and not the hoopla that delayed
or altered its existence. I think I may speak for all sports
fans when I say "yes, we love sports." We just want
to be loved back.
Is that so wrong?