Sunday, October 4, 2009

For the love of the game

I heard on the radio the other day that Chicago lost its bid to host the summer Olympics to Rio. Too bad for Rio. I vistited Barcelona a couple of years back and the enormous infrastructure they created for their Olympic games is now a crumbling hulk with rusty fixtures and herds of stray cats. I'm assuming that Salt Lake City had to somehow dispose of a curling arena, unless taxpayers wanted to keep it open for some reason...

Anyway, the Olympics used to stand for sport. Well, that's what they stood for anyway. Even in the pre-pro era they were plauged with politics, violence and intolerance. Today, doping and commercialism.

But anyway, my thoughts lead to sport and why we do it. Then, I had an idea.

No more professional sports.


Not even cycling.

Imagine a world where the only athletic events you could watch were the ones happening in your local town. A high school football game on Friday night, a senior citizen's track meet, or a fall cyclocross race. These events would bring communities together and I doubt anyone has even been trampled to death at an AYSO soccer match. The athletes would be people you know. Your coworkers, neighbors. The butchers play the bakers with the winner playing the candle-stick makers for the title. I'm more inspired by a working mother of two who gets back into shape to play her favorite sport than a football player with a multi million dollar contract who's biggest achievement is overcoming a hamstring pull in college. Who would you rather root for? A guy who takes up a sport to stay fit and teach his kids about sportsmanship, or this guy? No more obesity epidemic. Public money would go to build playing fields and gymnasiums that all of us could use instead of giant stadiums that benefit team owners and concession conglomerates. No huge wads of cash at stake, no more cheating. No more cheating, no more doping. No more doping, no more ruined lives. Who's going to dope to win an after-work softball game?

How do we do this? Ban the advertising of goods or services through sport. Just like we banned cigarettes commercials on TV. Then all sports would be self supporting. You either have to make it interesting enough for people to pay to watch or gather money from the players like in a local league, keeping things real small and the athletes really dedicated. Quite frankly, college football is a joke too. There's just enough ad and merchandising money in it to make it corrupt. No more college football, no more 'sympathetic professors' and 24 year old freshman in bullshit majors who graduate with a bachelor's degree and can barely read.

It's a pipe dream, but one that I think would make the entire world (or at least the USA) a better place. Thanks for letting me rant.


Anonymous said...

I have seen fistfights at Little League games, among parents and coaches of course. Little League is actually fairly violent. Girls' softball in high school was a bit calmer, but only a bit.

The analogy with music is informative. Professional music is not about to go away, but artists will increasingly earn their income from live performances and souvenir sales rather than sales of recordings. YouTube, streaming music sites and the like have helped the idea penetrate that not all worthwhile music is performed by famous people. The cultural fragmentation caused by the Internet has not affected sports much yet, but it will.

-p said...

That's what I'm getting at - it doesn't have to be popular or cost a lot to be good. We know this with art, music, why not sports?

Anonymous said...

A related question is, "Why is there such a disparity between the popularity of women's and men's sports, when there is no similar distinction between women's and men's music, or women's and men's art?" The answer clearly has to do, at least in part, with metrics. If there were a number that described how great women musicians were compared to men, and all the women were clearly worse, no one would pay attention to the women. As a tech weenie, it's instructive for me to consider that sometimes the lack of metrics can be beneficial!

The case of science is a middle ground. We have metrics in science (look up the h-index), but they're not quite indicative yet. Women in science will, I predict, be helped by better metrics. Who knows, maybe better metrics will hurt!

-p said...

Another interesting thought. Is the value of an athlete what a sports franchise or sponsor is willing to pay them? Is the the value of a basketball player proportional to their vertical leap? In both cases, Kobe Bryant comes out on top while Lisa Leslie comes out on the bottom. Which would you rather hold up as a role model?