For love of the games
After a rough summer, let's rediscover joy of sports
Posted: Wednesday September 5, 2007 11:09AM; Updated: Wednesday September 5, 2007 11:10AM
All of us who love sports should drop to our knees and thank the sporting gods for Appalachian State. Not only did the Mountaineers beat Michigan in front of 108,000 hostile fans. Not only did they become first Division I-AA school to beat a top-five program since the invention of the forward pass. They also reminded us exactly how enchanted and how vivacious sports can be. All of us who love sports needed this game, even the good people of Ann Arbor.
Boomers got 1967, the sweet summer of love. We get 2007, the summer of sporting sludge. For gossip guzzlers and tabloid tokers, it's been pure bliss. For us simple folk who actually like sports, there is a manic yearning to shower with steel wool and be done with it. For those of us who can't stand turning to Perez Hilton for our sports coverage, who think far too much sports radio is geared toward tearing young athletes apart, there's a crying need for some kind of political framework to understand the current state of the games.
I'm more than aware that for many of us sports are our blessed escape from politics. We don't want sports and politics in the same sentence, the same zip code, the same universe. It's like hearing that Hillary Clinton cut a reggae album or Dick Cheney got a cornrow toupee.
But if nothing else, the preceding months have shown that the two worlds have become one, whether we choose to believe it or not.
On the surface, none of the buffet of bombast seems that political. Michael Vick's self-immolation after pleading guilty to dog fighting charges, blood-doping cyclists, or Tim Donaghy getting pinched by the Feds is hardly the stuff of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The satirical rag The Onion caught the mood with an article titled, "Barry Bonds home run scandal somehow becomes feel good story of summer."
So what is the grimy thread that strings together the noxious beads of summer? Well, as with all enigmas, we turn to the oracle of David Mamet. In his film Heist, Danny DeVito says, "Everybody needs money! That's why they call it money!"
In other words, the spectacular success of the sporting industry -- a business that dwarfs US Steel -- threatens sports itself. We have a crisis of excess that creates boundless bounty for winners, and the scrap heap for everyone else. That's why Donaghy wanted his piece, even if he had to go through the mob. That's why many cyclists, baseball players, and even golfers think it's crazy to not risk their health for a shot at greatness, because the alternative to greatness is anonymity.