There comes a time in your life when you need to sit back, relax, rip out your soul and give it a closer look. What is it made of? What has it become? Has it changed at all?
“Yes, it is now soaked in beer.”
“No, haven’t learned a thing.”
“I sold it to Satan for an A in chemistry.”
Whatever the case, after your review, you brush it off, give it a pep-talk and boom! — you’re back on life’s highway to wherever . . . heaven, purgatory, McDonald’s.
After enjoying almost a century of rule over our minds and hearts, sport is undergoing its own internal review. Watch it carefully and you’ll see a fine institution cracking under massive pressure from the outside. The holy trinity of sports — money, drugs and trashtalk — is being unfairly attacked from every angle. Athletes are falling from grace, and fan disillusionment is at a record high. Angst is running amok.
What’s the deal? The Redskins are still great. College football is back. Major league baseball is almost over. Where are the problems? I think it’s high time we took a closer look at our holy trinity to determine what’s going wrong and how to right the ship.
Sports is a business. We are the customers. Customers are always right. So when we buy two-dollar hot dogs and three-dollar pretzels at home games, we expect something in return, like role-model athletes and better-looking cheerleaders.
The problem here, clearly, is that we aren’t coughing up enough dough. Sure Alex Rodriguez signed a $252 million contract, but how much is our national GNP? Seven trillion dollars. More than 15% of that goes to health care. That’s 15% of our hard-earned cash funneled into the pockets of layers upon layers of administrators, doctors and more administrators. What has your hospital administrator done for you lately?
On the other hand, your sports hero has brought you countless hours of entertainment and pure delight. He’s brought you joy on a platter and likely a few hundred dollars in your fantasy games. It’s time we made donations to our favorite teams and players and started clamoring for governmental funding of sports. Five billion dollars for cancer? Five billion dollars for the WNBA.
Since the inception of sports, athletes have been using drugs to get an edge on their competition. A few steroids here, a couple of inhalants there and boom! — they’ve added three centimeters onto their pole vault jumps. Athletes know the brutal consequences, yet they use drugs anyway. For them, glory over good health is the obvious choice. Perhaps track star Ben Johnson, the pride and joy of Canada, put it best: “Everybody cheats. Who doesn’t cheat in life?”
Management should, as it has, present the benefits and disadvantages of taking drugs. But it shouldn’t decide what athletes do to their own bodies. It is true that by banning drugs, a level playing field is created on which rich athletes can’t outdo poorer ones by buying more of the goods.
But a simple solution exists: let athletes use drugs! Distribute them for free! Drugs make for bigger players, which means more home runs, higher scoring and more excitement in general. Will Mark McGuire ever walk on two feet again? When will Johnson be reinstated? Guess the gender of your favorite Chinese swimmer!
Athletes should be role models on the field but not in life. And we should have enough sense to separate the two. For those worried about the health consequences of drugs, think about this: we let people smoke. We stuff ’em with beer. I bet you’ve even had a glass of Pepsi.
The campaign against trashtalk is ludicrous. Trashtalk in sports is like smog in L.A.: impossible to get rid of and absolutely necessary to survival. What would L.A. be without smog? Yet another boring city. Smog gives it character, pizzazz, a kind of ambiance that just makes you think, “screw the lungs, I’m moving to L.A.!”
Same deal in sports. Trashtalk is what makes pregame exciting. It creates the very passion we crave and the hatred we lust. It is the soul of competition. Name me a great athlete that doesn’t talk smack and I’ll show you a pansy. Pete Sampras? Case in point. Muhammed Ali, Lisa Leslie, John McEnroe – these are our superstars, these are our role models, these are our trashtalkers. How many kids would pick to be Pete over John?
Just yesterday, Boston Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra dissed his own team. And see how much fun it is to revel in their misery? Imagine if Hollywood Joe Namath hadn’t called his Super Bowl victory a week in advance. The big game would be a ratings flop as no one would have had a reason to watch. No one would have had anything to prove. Similarly, the great Cornell-Harvard rivalry would never have coalesced and Deion Sanders would never have had a career. A scary world, no doubt.
So that leaves us with one question: in what direction is sport headed? If it’s any indication, bobble-head athletes are now being sold at McDonald’s.
Archived article by Sumeet Sarin