Saturday, August 04, 2007

A supposed ex-sports' fan speaks

Last week was not a good one in sports. A NFL football quarterback was indicted on charges related to dog fighting. Cycling's Tour de France was plagued by doping allegations. So was Major League Baseball's Barry Bonds as he sought to break the sport's most hallowed record. A National Basketball Association was under investigation for betting on games he was officiating in.

Let's get our kids back on the couch. Let's get them reading about the war in Iraq, famine in Africa and global warming that will probably kill us all at some point. That's the real world.

Contrary to what Tingley might think, people from Iraq, Africa and worlds far more real than he or I live in DO care about sports. It's something that brings pleasure and joy to lives that otherwise have a lot of misery.

All this led Post-Star managing editor Ken Tingley to conclude that there is no redeeming value to professional sports anymore.

When Tingley was the sports' editor of the daily, I always appreciated the many columns he wrote emphasizing the importance of sportsmanship and integrity in sports.

I understand his disillusionment but isn't this a bit melodramatic?

The front page of the newspaper is lightweight reading compared to the sports pages.

Slaughter in Iraq, genocide in Darfur, refugee crises in Jordan and Chad and chaos in Afghanistan are 'lightweight' compared to athletes allegedly choosing to stick needles in their arms?

He is right when writes: We are a culture that demands our athletes be superhuman. They need to perform at levels that are not better than anything we have ever seen, but at a level that is greater than Superman.

But the solution isn't to give up on sports altogether. It's to put it in the proper perspective. Too many kids already spend enough time in front of their computer or game console. We don't need to discourage kids from having role models that might encourage them to be physically active.

Many Americans are disillusioned with our political leaders. According to Tingley's understandable but misguided logic, the solution would be to stop being civicly involved altogether. Sadly, many Americans have followed this path.

Instead, we should all condemn the cheaters. And, just as importantly, praise those athletes like Cal Ripken Jr and Tony Gwynn who are not only great at what they do but whose class and integrity are beyond reproach.

Instead of falling into an easy but corrosive cynicism, why not highlight the many athletes who selflessly donate their time to various charitable causes?

This would emphasize to kids that you can be good at what you do AND be a good person at the same time. That nice guys don't always finish last.

The fact that Tingley hasn't axed The Post-Star's sports' section tells me that he sees some redeeming value there.

While there are lots of good people in sports, it's the scumbags that get the headlines. But doesn't that say more about us than them?

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