Author: Ken Wolf
I like sports. And I’m glad I do because in a sports filled world, it would be tremendously annoying if I didn’t. My sincere condolences to those who don’t as there’s no escaping it. Always a season for something. My sports fandom has evolved over time to a healthy place, where I can enjoy the good, but be aware of the bad and the ugly. Part of that comes from maturing as a human and another part likely survival instinct after a life of crushing defeats and the continual disappointment that comes with living in Cincinnati.
THE GOOD: Sports are a wonderful diversion from the struggles of everyday life. There will always be the escape of watching your team no matter how your job, finances, marriage, health, or whatever is going. Sports don’t care about your race or nationality or economic status, whether you’re playing or viewing (attending certain games at certain levels can be pricey). Nothing unites people of all different types quite like love of team. Playing sports are good for us physically and, when not taken overboard, mentally as well. It’s a tough world and kids are exposed to competition, teamwork, success, and failure. There are worse things young folk could be doing than athletics. Sports were a big part of my childhood. I was awful at baseball, mediocre at basketball, and decent at soccer and tennis. I remember well watching both Bengals Super Bowls (sounds crazy saying those three words together) and the Reds winning the World Series in 1990.
THE BAD: Some people take sports way to seriously. We all know fanatics. I’m pretty sure my Ohio State loving buddy bleeds scarlet and gray. And I admit to daydreaming about finding out via a quick jab to the nose as he’s rambled about the Buckeyes on far too many occasions. Where being a passionate fan having fun crosses the line into fanaticism is often subjective. But sometimes it’s pretty cut and dry. Being the parent on the sidelines that yells at the refs, coaches, and kids is bad. Getting irate at your child if they don’t play well is bad. My sixth grade basketball coach was regularly given technical fouls and got booted from a few games. Too much. For his health and everyone else’s at that level. Fighting over sports is of course bad. Getting wasted and yelling profanities in public is bad. Anywhere, including a stadium. Letting the outcome of a game affect you enough that it consistently impacts relationships in your life is bad.
THE UGLY: Brain damage from sports is ugly. Rule changes and concussion protocol in football are addressing the issue. It’s tough to tackle the problem without changing the game, but it is just a game. Healthy brains are more important. Threatening lives over sport is ugly. Ask Bill Buckner, whose life was never the same after a ball rolled through his legs. Threats and harassment happen more often than one could dream possible in a sane world. You can’t ask Andres Escobar, the Colombian soccer player who scored on his own goal in the World Cup, because he was shot dead soon after. I hope the horse racing world is remaining civil after last weekend’s Derby debacle. A lot of dollars were involved and the amount of money in sports contributes to plenty of ugliness.
I suppose it all comes down to balance, like anything in life. That balance is different for different people, but a good rule of thumb is to not act like a sociopath over sports. Sports are awesome, but they are not everything.