With the onset of a new football season, abutting the demise of the real baseball season – the Lowell Spinners season, that is – I am moved to wax philosophical about the place of sports in my and our culture’s priorities.
The short summary: They are way out of whack. Sports are a great diversion. As someone wiser than I once said, athletic competitions are dramas where we don’t know the ending. With most movies, books, and plays we see, the ending is broadcast well beforehand. If our friends haven’t let the proverbial cat out of the bag, the writer usually has. Unless you picked up a book of sports results during your last trip to the future in your Delorean, the results of sports contests are a complete unknown.
That’s a good thing. Sports become drama, mystery, and story and they are real. Sort of. The sport and end result are indeed real, but are so removed from our existence that they have no true meaning for anyone outside of the handful of competitors involved.
That’s the bad thing. Why in heaven’s name do we get so wrapped up in them? Why do we identify ourselves so strongly with teams whose fates have no bearing whatsoever on ours? I recently heard a young Yankee fan use the term “we” when referring to the team. Huh? (In that respect, Sox fans are just as bad. In every other respect, nothing is worse than a Yankee fan.)
Why do we care so much? As a former Sox fan, I am still smarting from ’75, ’86, and worst of all 2003. As a Pats fan, I expect I will always get the same sick feeling that I do now when I think of that 2007 Super Bowl. I can’t tell you why, though.
That’s just the benign response. Worse are those who want to commit homicide and topple governments over the result of a soccer game. (Soccer of all things. I agree with the person who likened watching a soccer game to staring at an aquarium.)
There’s a statement about the meaning and purpose of life to be drawn from these observations. Loneliness and lack of community both play large parts as well, I suspect.
I do try to keep things in perspective now. People living on the streets of Haiti and being tortured for their religious or political beliefs in various countries around the world must take a greater share of my time and imagination than the exploits of Tom Brady, Josh Beckett, and their wildly overpaid comrades.
My family and neighbors need my attention no less. Maybe I’ll have them over to watch a game.