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Sports are overly important these days

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So drop the damn ball. What does it matter?
- Joe Cosgriff

The above is an exact quote from one Joe Cosgriff, who was not much of a sports fan. Oh, he'd watch something occasionally, and was even known, every now and then, to ask how the Tigers had done. So we're not saying that he had no interest in sports and games. But we do wonder whether he, perhaps, had the right idea about them.

It is in this light that we note with a certain interest the upcoming reality show Friday Night Tykes. It appears to get into the real world of youth sports, with that distinct in your face attitude which football does so well. Screaming parents and coaches trying to impart manhood unto young men and doing so at the top of their lungs. Yep, it sure looks like it has sports in the right light.

So let's ask Joe's question: what does it matter if an outfielder or wide receiver drops a ball? What really can we take from a successful dunk or pretty goal or even an uphill 35 foot put with a significant left-right slope?

It could make millions of dollars for some people; okay, we get that. But that's only, we will say it, about the money. There's nothing wrong with that per se either. But the athletes who do not bag the extra cash still have friends and family, don't they, as well as more than the capacity to care for themselves and those who depend on them, right? So it hardly really matters, in any rational sense, what the outcome of the game might be.

Yes, yes, sports and games can be good recreation. Yet even that value seems a very minor one these days, especially when so many athletes aren't playing for recreation, are they? They're playing to show that they're better than the other guy. They're competing. It strikes us that such goes beyond recreation, so much so that any point about relaxation is out the window.

But sports teach us things, don't they? Things like discipline and doing your job and living up to the expectations of people who rely on you. They teach teamwork; they teach sportsmanship and respect for others.

Respect for others. That's a difficult point to take seriously when you're in a naturally adversarial position. Indeed, arguably, such can't teach respect but rather the other side of respect: the idea that I'm better than you. Such competitiveness cannot truly teach anything useful as it can only encourage jealousy and arrogance. Beyond that, so much of the discipline which comes from playing games can be learned without the games, and much more easily and directly. Get to school or work on time; get your job done; be there for people when they need you. If these and a great many other virtues aren't learned day in and day out as you live your life, it seems highly unlikely that the mere practice and play for a game will do it. At best, they are only part of the learning process, and a quite obviously unnecessary one at that seeing as they're a small part of most lives. Even the lives of most athletes.

We're not saying that sports and games are wrong. But we are saying that they've become too much a part of our society considering their relative worth. At the end of the day, no matter how you doll it up, a game is just a game. Nothing more.

We will have good sportsmanship only when someone drops a damn ball and everyone simply shrugs and says, oh well. Until then, we will not have learned anything about the real value of any given game.

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