POGGE inspired me to write this. If you don't like it, blame him. :-)
There's been a lot of furor over sports these days -- and not about the play on the field either -- or, rather, not about the play on the field during regulation time. CBS and the FCC have gone ballistic over two seconds of bare flesh, and the CBC has put Don Cherry on a seven second delay for two seconds of baldfaced boneheadedness.
Meanwhile, there's a war in Iraq, Martin looks set to be heading for a landslide despite his government's missteps, cities are struggling to make ends meet and... well, you get the idea.
If sports are supposed to be a diversion necessary to take the stress off of our fractious society, why the heck do we take it so seriously? Why is it accorded the status of politics -- a field that actually has an impact in our daily lives? Janet Jackson bears her breast in what may have been a botched publicity stunt, and suddenly people are wringing their hands over the moral fabric of our society. Don Cherry shows his complete and longstanding inability to express a rational political or culturally-sensitive thought, and now we're worried about censorship. I think it's the height of irony that what are apparently the greatest threats to civilization as we know it comes from what is supposed to be incidental; just a bit of fun.
In short: we need to get over ourselves!
That felt better.
I have, frankly, given up on sports in general. I appreciate a good game, sure; I especially enjoy women's hockey, and I savoured the Canadian men's victory over Team USA for the 2002 Olympic gold medal. I enjoy intense (but well-played) playoff games and I am a fan of the World Cup of Soccer. Unfortunately, I fear that as a society, our perspective on our bread and circuses has gotten a little off. We have stopped favouring sportsmanship and are in it for the visceral. For example, who accorded iconic status to Don Cherry? Just what the heck did he do, for heaven's sake? He's a two time loser of the Stanley Cup, inheriting his top-level Boston Bruins team from better coaches, and is most famous for having his clock cleaned by the Montreal Canadiens (which might explain his irrational hatred of French Canadians right there).
I don't have much sympathy for Don Cherry; he's a pandering, pompous blowhard who gained fame mostly by drawing aggressively on his Inner A--hole. Some of the views he espouses - that visors are for sissies, that preteen players should not be discouraged from thuggery, that true valour lies only in bloodsport - are Medieval at best and belong in history's dungheap along with such other dated concepts as leeching and the iron maiden.
But Don Cherry is simply the tip of an iceberg. Whenever I work out at the gym and look up at Sportsnet playing on the TV, hockey highlight reels invariably show the "best" fights in the night, in a game that's supposed to be about skating and stickwork. Didn't we declare that violence in hockey was a problem a decade ago? Have we learned anything? Is it any surprise that incidents of parental sports rage are up? Then there are the overpaid players, and the even-more overpaid owners, crying poor and holding cities for ransom to get them to build taxpayer-funded stadiums or else. There is the fact that one has to sell one's first-born to get a decent ticket for a fun night out these days, and then there is the fact that, for some people, devotion to one's local team equals or exceeds that of one's devotion to one's country.
Frankly, though baseball has its problems, that sport now appeals to me more than NHL hockey these days. At least you don't see two immature idiots drop gloves and go at it to the cheers of the crowd every other game. And I'm saying this as a Canadian and a Torontonian. And take note that as I write this, the Leafs have just beaten the Senators, so nobody could ascribe this rant as that of a Leaf fan showing his colours as a sore loser.
Well, I never said that society was perfect. I know that I'm not alone when I say that some of society's priorities are skewed. But I wonder if I'm alone when I see sport itself as a symptom of society's flaws rather than a distraction from them. I've said that sports is only a game; we shouldn't take it seriously, but here I am taking it seriously. I guess that's ironic.
Sports do matter, but not in the way that most people think. Rather than a distraction, they are a mirror held up to society with a tendency to reflect our most silly, immature and unflattering sides. And that may be why, on balance, I've never really liked sports. I know our society has problems; I don't need to be reminded of them with every other game.
Sports, Sports, Sports, Sports -- Take 2
After writing the above screed, I went over and read this post from the People's Republic of Seabrook, which readjusted my perspective in a hurry. For all my dismissal of sports, it is still responsible for many fine memories that I'd be loathe to give up.
I remember, the very year that the University of Toronto considered cutting its football program, the normally hapless Varsity Blues made a spectacular Cinderella run to the Vanier Cup, winning the Canadian national championship by a field goal. You couldn't get storybook endings better than that outside of Lake Placid. I also remember the Blue Jay's two World Series championship victories, how the city -- and even the country -- held its breath and then erupted, especially when Joe Carter got that bottom-of-the-9th homer to win the whole thing. I remember the joy of Montrealers when they lost the Stanley Cup to Calgary Flames and hockey veteren Lanny MacDonald, who was playing his last year. I remember the glory of the Toronto Argonauts ending a 31 year drought to finally win the Grey Cup.
I probably force myself to care too little about sports because if I didn't, I'd care too much. I went into mourning when the Argonauts went to the Grey Cup thirty years after their last victory and ran into a brick wall in the form of Warren Moon and the Edmonton Eskimos. I cared far more than I'd like to admit when the Chicago Cubs came within five innings of a trip to the World Series and lost.
If life ran as a sport, most of us would suffer the agony of defeat. Our losses would be devastating, if not fatal. Sports give us something to cheer for, while (if we keep our perspective) the losers lose only a game and nothing more. That's what bread and circuses is about. Maybe our perspective could use an adjustment, but when I say I don't care about sports, I'm a liar.
But I still think we could do without a debate on the pair of boobs.
Janet Jackson Can't Cut a Break, Can She?
Let's see: the FCC hates her, CBS hates her, MTV hates her, the Grammies hate her...
Oh, yes, and the fetish shop that made Janet Jackson's costume hates her for "making their clothes look flimsy and not well made."
Yes, folks, Janet Jackson has united the Christian coalition with the S&M movement. Who says she isn't a peacemaker?
And, for the record, I didn't see the breast incident, though the Super Bowl was on television at the time (on Mute because Erin doesn't care for football unless the Nebraska Cornhuskers play, and we were playing Oxford Dilemma with my parents). As far as I can tell, I was spelling Huehuetenango (pronounced weigh-weigh-ten-ang-go) at the time and commenting that my time spent at the Second Cup wasn't wasted after all.