Tales From the Hilltop
An intelligent, yet Devil's Advocate view of the world

Episode Nine: Sports – our Savior….literally.

Ah, the spirit of competition. There’s nothing like it. REALLY.

I love sports just as much as any person. Actually, I think I’m into sports more than most normal people. Football, basketball, baseball (on occasion), even things like the Olympics, hockey, and second-tier sports like dodgeball pique my interest.

Other than the obvious benefits of playing sports – physical recreation, making new friends and rivals, testing your limits, just watching sports has become essential to very survival at times. Next to eating, sleeping, and working (and sex), sports ranks up there with activities one seemingly has to associate with on a daily basis. Whether planning a racquetball lunch, a fight party, or a weekly flag football game, there’s no way people can underestimate the power that sports seemingly wield in today’s society.

Why? Cause sports – if nothing else – is a savior to us. For nothing else, it really “saves” most of us from the every day 9 to 5 lives we do. It tests our emotional boundaries, from hope and triumph to total despair and loss. (Unless you’re a Cleveland anything fan. That concept should be 2nd nature to you by now. Lol.) Sports take our minds from the negative and allow us to focus into something constructive. The biggest example I can think of would relate to the city of New Orleans. After the horrible tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Superdome had to be shut down and renovated (due to the destruction, both inside and out), while the home team Saints played their games out-of-town. Upon their return to their stadium the following season, even with the city still undergoing massive renovations, the city and its citizens galvanized behind their football team, putting all their past aggravations aside to cheer for proud franchise. I saw their first home game on ESPN. They won that game, with the team energized by its home crowd.

That’s the power that sports have on us. The ability to make a will of out of seemingly nothing.  To turn ordinary contests into legendary moments and for the people that excel at them into extraordinary – and very wealthy – figures in society. This is good, but it can also lead to a very bad downside.

People will get behind an athlete if they are one of the best at what they do, no matter what may happen to them away from the sport. Why? Personally, I think it’s a tribute that the massive pay to that person for helping that team gives our lives so much joy, almost like a return-of-the-favor. But the key word here: “best”. They have to be the best at it. As shallow as it may seem, no one’s coming to the sympatric rescue of a player who stunk, or was average and happened to get themselves into trouble.

I’ll give you two scenarios. First up, we have Maurice Clarette, who at one point was rated the top running back in college football of out THE Ohio State University. However, towards the end of his collegiate career, his production declined steadily, to the point where by the time he actually got eligible to play in the NFL, no team wanted his services. Some point in time, he was arrested afterwards for armed robbery and sentenced to time in a federal prison. Did people gather around Clarett and throw their support? No. We all just kind of shook our heads and moved on.

Next there’s the very charismatic Allen Iverson. One of the NBA’s top guards for more than a decade, he’s known for his fearless approach to being a small guard in a league of big men and rising to the top, as far as scoring the ball (on playing defense sometimes). He even won an MVP trophy for the 2001 Season, in which he led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals. But, Iverson has also been known for a lot of controversy, both on and off the court which include being an extremely selfish player at times, and being a rather conceited guy to his fans. After two trades to other teams and down to a point he actually considered retirement, he was offered to come back and play with his first team, the Sixers. The fans, who never stopped supporting the guy, sold out the arena to watch the re-debut of Iverson back to the Sixers. I was there. When his name was announced in the starting line-ups, the roar he got from the Philly home crowd was tremendous, proving that whatever he’d done in the past, the fans simply didn’t care about. All that mattered was A.I. was back home.

All in all, I believe people follow sports more than they do their own religion. Think on it: how many people you honestly participate in some form of church on an everyday basis, though usher meeting, choir rehearsal, brotherhood gatherings, regular service, and what not. Not too many. Yet, how many of the same people can tell you who’s playing tonight, or tomorrow, or on Sunday? I’m not trying to be a jerk to any religious folks, but I’m pretty sure that the consensus thinking is while God or whomever may save our souls in the immortal afterlife, touchdowns, home runs, bicycle kick goals, and alley-oops surely will save it while we’re on Earth.

Sports…honestly, where would a lot of us be without it?

12/8/2009

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