Thursday, December 29, 2016

Opinions #8--Mourning the Decline of Noble Sport

I grew up a sports fan. 

Which was hard to do, in a family of six women and one man.  And the one man wasn't exactly the athletic type, being an accountant and all.

But we did have a television.  Do you remember ABC Wide World of Sports?  "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat?"  On Saturday afternoons, I could generally be found making a half-assed effort at weekend chores, with the television tuned to the downhill skiing or skating or track and field or cycling or gymnastics or whatever obscure sports competition Roone Arledge had scraped up from somewhere around the globe to present to rapt (and sometimes head-scratching) American audiences.  I loved that show.  And Chris Schenkel doing the pro-bowling tour.  I was just...hooked.

Then there were the Cub games on WGN--a perfect alternative to after-school soap operas for an active and competitive soul such as myself.  I was never really any good at playing sports.  But I loved to watch and cheer.  I was a fan.

And I remained a fan for decades, when sport was sport; sometimes you won, sometimes you lost, but the players always played their hearts out either way..because that was how it was.  And the fans cheered, and appreciated the effort, and loved their teams, even in defeat.   

The bloom began to come off the rose in the late 70's...I remember to this day.  The era of self-promoting prima-donna players was ushered in by Reggie Jackson--the guy who believed and wasn't shy about publicly proclaiming that he was the best player in baseball, and his team only won because he was on it.  Post-Jackson, the "I am the greatest" player attitudes picked up steam exponentially.  Sports teams became a thing of the past. Sports stars ran the table.  Ball clubs became groups of loosely connected individual celebrities, more interested in competing with other stars--including those with whom they suited up every day--for the most attention and highest salaries than in being part of a team.    

So now, here in the 21st century, we have squads of over-paid, spoiled adolescents raking in obscene amounts of money for their laudable prowess at...playing kids' games.  Games, people.  Just games.  Not "Winners" and "Losers."  Not life or death. The world doesn't stop turning if the other team scores more than yours does.  Though with the sums of money that are thrown around in today's professional sports, you'd think it would.

Sports today are about winning--every time, there's no such thing as a laudable try if you lose; , and money--piles and piles of it.  Nothing else matters.  Professional sport has become ugly and contentious; in-your-face and boastful; intimidating and greedy.  Why would I want to watch that?  Why would I want to call myself a "fan" and enable that kind of culture?

Nope.  American pro sports left me far behind...sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley in 1970, rooting for our disgraced but always beloved Chicago Cubs, win or lose...because "there's always next year." 

Well, there was...but not anymore. 

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