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OldRightHander
10-14-2006, 12:24 PM
I do too much thinking while I'm driving around all week, and this past week was no exception. I've been contemplating the place sports has in our society and how our lives and attitudes are affected by sports.

Sports in America could be said to be the product of an affluent culture. Sure, there are athletes around the world, and some darn good ones in third world countries, but the whole sports culture in this country is a result of wealth. Look at the millions, probably billions, that is spent on sports every year. Look at the stadiums our teams play in, the amount of money that is paid to the athletes at the professional level, the money people spend on tickets to games and the cable tv to watch them. It goes on and on. But we can look farther than just how much money is spent by Americans on sports. How much has the money of our professional leagues affected the demographic of our country? All of these teams represent our respective cities, but a large number of the athletes playing for those teams were born outside the U.S. It's just one more contributor to that American melting pot.

Since so many athletes come from other countries to play here, I think we have developed the attitude that our sports leagues are the premier leagues in the world. When a team wins an American championship, we call them the world champions. I have always been reluctant to use that term myself because I think there is a certain arrogance behind it. Sure, the Super Bowl winner might well be the best football team in the world, but it is still the champion of a bunch of teams all based in this country. I know that the same can be said for the other major sports outside of soccer; the best leagues are based in North America, but I still find it funny that we call the best team the World Champion.

Why is the death of an athlete somehow more tragic than the death of a construction worker? Or more precisely, why is it perceived that we think that death is more tragic? When Lidle died, there were the people on tv talking about how tragic it was, and then there were people who were saying that he was getting more attention because he was a ballplayer and that it isn't fair to the "little guy" who might die and leave behind a wife and small son. Both are right and both are wrong. I really don't think the athlete or celebrity death is treated as more tragic, not if we look at how people view death. When the average Joe dies, he is mourned intensely by all who knew him. Folks go to the services and then gather afterward to reflect on who he was, what his life meant, and how they will miss him. A person with a larger circle of influence will have a larger number of people who mourn him. If the person lived a public life, he will be mourned publicly and given a lot of attention on tv and radio. I don't think that is inappropriate, but I do have a problem with the use of rhetoric that could say to the little guy, "His life mattered more than yours." We have to be more careful here. The tragedy of Lidle's death is that a young woman has lost her husband and a young boy will grow up without his dad. There will always be more ballplayers.

The word "hate" is thrown about way too casually in sports circles. People hate the Yankees, they hate Barry Bonds, they hate the Steelers, etc. Is this really the appropriate word to use here? I know that fans and athletes alike have strong emotions, especially the fans, but do we really hate teams? I really don't like the Yankees, but when I get down to it, is it really hate? I don't think so. I might not want to see them win, but that has more to do with a feeling I have that they have had theirs and now it's someone else's turn. I'm sure if you asked the average fan who doesn't like them, you would find out that he doesn't really have a deep hatred for the players who are playing for that team. I dislike the way they do business, but that is more of an indictment of the system that allows them to outspend everyone than it is a condemnation of a team that just does what the system in place allows them to do. Am I jealous of all their success? Yes, jealousy would probably be a more fitting term than hatred. When a team is that successful, people are jealous and want some of that success for their own teams. A team's success will cause jealousy and will even bring about rivalries with other teams who have to compete against them. The Bengals and Steelers would be a good example of this. I have strong emotions when I think about the Steelers and I love to see them lose as much as any other team in sports, but do I hate them? Not really. I dislike some of their players, and have respect for others. I am unhappy that their success last year came at the expense of the Bengals, but I don't know if it is really hatred in the true sense of the word. Perhaps it is for some fans, but I don't see it that way. If you are harboring true hatred for a sports team, you really need to evaluate your life's priorities a bit.

I just find it truly amazing how much of an influence sports has on our lives, how we live and die with the success of our teams. My emotional state all week will be different depending on how the Buckeyes and Bengals do this weekend. There are way more important things in life, but you couldn't convince many of us. We are passionate about it. Don't get me wrong though. I think that passion is a good thing. It gives us something more to our lives other than the daily grind of providing for our families. Life can be pretty stressful at times and sports provide us with an outlet, a way to escape the real world for just a brief moment. For three hours today, nothing else will matter except for the Buckeyes, and the same with the Bengals tomorrow. But let's not take it to the extremes that lead to ugly incidents like we sometimes see with parents at youth sporting events. Let's keep it in perspective. Enjoy sports. Be passionate. But know that at the end of the day it's still a game.