Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What she said

I haven't been blogging much lately because I've been pretty busy--buying a new car, keeping a house in order, helping the local chapter of a dysfunctional social organization, and looking for a job that doesn't suck the life out of me. Not that there haven't been any sports to talk about. We've been treated to the Best. Olympics. Ever, the Steelers are 2-0, the Penguins will be starting their season again soon, and the Pirates still suck.

I was inspired by my wife's latest blog entry, in which she nailed a major problem--the recent tendency of politics to resemble professional sports.

One could also argue that sports sometimes resembles politics. The business of sports can be political, with its megamillion business deals. And sports can definitely cross paths with the law. The sports page in my old hometown has its own subheading titled "Legal File," printed alongside "Baseball," "Football" and the rest. "Legal File" features two-paragraph stories about athletes who made really bad plays off the field.

I am reminded of the words of my college religion professor, Dr. Paul Redditt. (Yes, I took religion in college--it was required.) He was a true anomaly--a liberal Southern Baptist. He was very interested when he found out I was the sports editor of the college paper. He talked about one of his favorite sports writers, Dick Fenlon of the Columbus Dispatch. I'll never forget his reason why he liked Fenlon.

"He knows that there's nothing really important that happens in a ball game."

What a powerful statement.

And it's true. Unless you are employed in the sports industry in some capacity, there's nothing really important that happens in any sports event.

Wars, the economy, global warming, civil liberties--these are important. No sports event is important. Not even the Super Bowl.

That's what make sports so great. We root for our favorite teams, we cheer, we boo, we lose ourselves in the moment. When we're watching our favorite athletes, nothing else matters--and yet, it really doesn't matter at all. If our team wins, we go on with our lives feeling better for a while. If our team loses, we go on with our lives. We feel like we've played the game vicariously, and we can share in the victory without worrying about torn ACLs. We have all the drama of any national news story without millions of people being adversely affected by that drama.

How ironic that the irrelevance of sports is precisely the thing that makes them meaningful to millions.

Sports matter because they don't matter.

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