Two very thoughtful opinioins. First, Dr. Keith Ablow argues that an overemphasis on sports leads institutions to ignore behavior like that of former Rutgers coach Mike Rice, which led to his dismissal this week. I found a coupleof Ablow's points interesting.
First is where he argues that what Rice did in the gym never would be allowed in the classroom. True, but there are practices coaches employ that are perfectly acceptable in sport that never would be allowed in the clasroom. It's apples and oranges. But the point I find fascinating is that spectator sports have left fans underacheiving lumps, who live vicariously through their teams rather than accomplishing anything on their own:
It’s time the world of sports and sports fans got over themselves. They are a glaring symbol of how little passion of their own people have now, how much they need to be ceaselessly entertained and how willing they are to settle for being fans, instead of fanning the flames of their own passions.
I suppose that's true for some fans, but I think it is a patently unfair generalization. I'm passionate about sports because they don't matter. You can become very emotionally invested in a team knowing that whatever happens you're no worse for the wear. For me(and I think most fans) it's a distraction from the things that do matter. Ablow continues:
Mike Rice is a creation of whatever psychological forces turned him into a bully—probably from boyhood. But he is also a product of a culture that wrongfully deifies sports figures, including coaches, and is lost in pretending that who wins the Final Four matters to the future of our existence—which it does not, at all. Not one bit. Not one iota.
Very few people pretend that any sporting event matters to the future of their existence. As I said above, it's being able to be passionate about something that in the end can't really harm you is the real appeal, in my opnion. Former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent responded to Ablow in a companion opinion piece called "What Does Matter?" He makes what I think is a brilliant point:
To me, the ability to be able to enjoy and appreciate the subtleties of baseball and other sports is to recognize the various ways we can experience pleasure. The issue raised by Dr. Ablow is a red herring in the sense that he asks a legitimate question but addresses a false target. The sensible person does not ask why it matters to take a walk in the woods on a fall morning while the leaves are changing color. We do not live solely -- no pun -- for things that matter in the ultimate sense. Ultimate concerns are for the philosopher. Life is to be lived and not to be restricted by such questions as whether this moment could be better spent learning Greek verbs or how to fix a toilet. It is the wise person who knows when to ask the proper question. And to ask about the ultimate meaning of time spent lying in the grass staring at the sky is to engage in absurd self-flagellation.
Get a life. Relax. Live a bit.
Before taking laptop in hand this afternoon I re-watched Super Bowl XXXI, where my beloved Packers beat the Patriots 35-21. Why? Because it will always be my favorite Packers game. I started watching them religiously in 1972. I waited 24 years for that moment. A lot of people think that's crazy. But a lot of things are important to me. I was not a fan of live theater until my wife introduced me to it. She knew nothing of pro football into I introduced her to the game. I think we're both lucky. We expanded each others horizons. I can read a book about politics, a mystery thriller or an autobiography. I enjoy ESPN and the History Channel. I enjoy escargot and cavier as much as I do brats and german potato salad. I appreciate cognac and a good craft brew.
Yes, there are people who are emotionally over invested in sport. But I believe the more passions we have in life, the richer our lives are. I have loyal listeners who believe I should never talk about sports, Or TV shows, or anything other than politics. There is a reason I say mine is a show about everything. Because I think life should be.