It dawned on me last night, when thinking about my “Manny diatribe” written earlier in the day, that I seem to devote an inordinate amount of time thinking about and writing about issues related to sports. It’s no wonder that I once (and still on occasion) consider going back to school to study sports sociology. But that is for another time – another LIFE-time. In the meantime, I’m working through a bit of guilt over this obsession.
During a commercial break from SportsCenter the other night, I turned the channel to the nightly news report on PBS and for the next 20 minutes or more, listened to the story of the events occurring in Pakistan around the return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The militant uprising, the bomb blasts, the deaths and injuries to hundreds of innocent people, the attempted assassination of this leader.
As I listened, I found myself unable to return to SportsCenter. I must admit that it wasn’t because the story of the attacks in Pakistan intrigued me so. It was instead my realization that here was a lengthy (relatively speaking) story on a world event that truly mattered. This was the story of a REAL struggle, a REAL battle, to use the word athletes are so fond of when describing their feats. They speak of battling at the plate, battling on the field, battling to the end. Compared to a story of Pakistanis who died in a battle, the “end” to which they speak seems absurd. Compared to the 3-minute bits on injury reports and fantasy league updates and the Top Ten highlight reel… the whole thing seems absurd.
But to temper my guilt, I think of how that absurdity actually brings a bit of comfort. Sport, for all its shortcomings, offers relief. The sound bites on SportsCenter, the rundown of the scores, bring consolation. There are games, time limits, seasons, and results, clear and simple. Simply put, there are rules. One can argue over the strike zone and whether or not a fly ball that hits the yellow line is fair or foul. In some cases, instant replay is employed to make sure the call is correct. But in the end, there exists some pretty clear rule that’s followed and it’s this rule that determines the final outcome. It’s simple, uncomplicated and undemanding. On this level, we get it. It makes sense and is thus, to some extent, comforting.
What rules are they playing by in Pakistan? In Iraq? In Washington? We don’t know. We can’t tell. In the same PBS broadcast, there was also an interview with John McCain to discuss his current presidential bid. In it he made a comment about the hard decisions that have to be made during war. The man is a former prisoner of war, so I trust what he’s saying to some degree. But still I find myself asking what is the rule that says we ever have to go to war in the first place? Where is the rule that says such behavior is against the rules?
When I dare to look around at the world, beyond the gridiron and the baseball diamond, it makes no sense to me. I fear this is why so many of us are absorbed in sports or “American Idol” or “Big Fat Loser” or “I’m proud of the fact that as an adult I don’t know any more than a fifth grader”. It explains why more people in America likely know who Paris Hilton is than where Paris, France is. Paris Hilton is a total dolt. We can look at her, judge her, see that she’s clearly not playing by the rules and thus deserves every bit of 24-hour jail cell suffering she brings upon herself. THIS makes sense.
The Red Sox beat the Indians last night 12-2. They won. There is no doubt of the outcome. The series is now tied 3 games a piece. They will play one more game tonight and whoever wins will move on to the World Series. End of story. Unlike Iraq. Unlike Pakistan. Unlike the rest of the world.