- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
MR. AVERAGE JOE TOUCHDOWN
A wide-ranging survey on attitudes that Americans aged 14 and over have toward sports was released last week, and the key findings were wholly unsurprising. Conducted by a New York City firm, Research & Forecasts, Inc., and underwritten by Miller Lite beer, which does a lot of sports-related advertising, the survey found that football was the most popular spectator sport, with baseball second and basketball third, and that swimming was the favorite participant sport, followed by football and, tied for third, baseball/softball and basketball. The only one of these findings that seemed mildly unexpected was that so many adults still relished mixing it up on a football field. But it must be supposed that many respondents' definition of "playing football" included touch and, possibly, just tossing the ball around in the backyard.
But an eye-opener or two cropped up in less publicized portions of the 200-page report. For example, 45% of the 1,319 respondents (576 male, 743 female) said that when watching their favorite sport they sometimes felt that, given the right training, they could do as well as the athletes. The figure shot up to a startling 74% among respondents aged 14 to 17 and was a still hefty 25% among those 65 or over. Since the "favorite sport" in question would presumably be one played at the professional or at least the major-college level, these findings seemed to raise a troubling question: Do Americans have an unhealthy capacity for self-delusion?
We're happy to report that an authority we questioned on the subject, Dr. Stanley Cheren, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, isn't alarmed. Cheren says that one reason many respondents might think they could perform as well as top-level athletes is that they "have difficulty recognizing what it means to be gifted. By and large it's only the gifted who have a sense of 'giftedness.' Other people confuse their own willingness to work hard with what happens in sports and the arts, where the few gifted individuals who work hard achieve in a different way from the rest of humanity." Cheren conceded that it would take a considerable amount of fantasizing for, say, a 55-year-old woman to think she could beat Martina Navratilova. But he says that in most cases this sort of thinking is essentially healthy—"a way of taking a little holiday in your mind" is how he puts it—and is one of the things that helps make viewing sports so widely appealing.
Of course, if that many people think they could perform as well as the big-time athletes they watch, it's scarcely any wonder that, in yet another of the survey's findings, 76% of the respondents said they believed that pro athletes are overpaid. We have long realized that a lot of people felt that way, but we never knew why. Now we do.
WIN ONE, LOSE ONE
North Carolina State's surprising victory in this year's ACC basketball tournament may have cost the Wolfpack baseball team a game. The N.C. State nine, playing at home on March 13, was leading the University of North Carolina Charlotte 7-2 with two out in the seventh and last inning of the opening game of a double-header. With the Wolfpack just one out from victory, many of the 100 fans at Doak Field were directing their full attention to portable radios to hear the account of the closing seconds of the ACC basketball title game between N.C. State and Virginia in Atlanta. Reporters in the baseball press box were watching the Atlanta game on TV, as were N.C. State students in a couple of large dormitories beyond the leftfield fence. And when the final buzzer sounded in Atlanta, with the Wolfpack winning 81-78, a mighty roar erupted from the stands, press box and dorms in Raleigh.
Alas, what should have been a game-ending grounder off the bat of UNC Charlotte Catcher Chuck McGee was entering the glove of N.C. State Shortstop Doug Strange at that very moment. Apparently flustered by the explosion of cheers, Strange started to throw to second for a forceout, hesitated and then tried to get McGee at first. The throw was wide, pulling First Baseman Tim Barbour off the base. Following Strange's error the 49ers scored five runs in the inning to tie the game and added three more in the eighth for a stunning 10-7 extra-inning victory.
Although Strange is too sporting a fellow to hold the Pack basketball team wholly responsible for his costly miscue, he allowed that the fact that "everybody went crazy" at so inopportune a moment had been a contributing factor. "The noise was part of it," he said, proving, one supposes, that insofar as North Carolina State athletics are concerned, every silver lining has a cloud.