Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sport of Narcissism

These are hard days for professional sports, veil-lifting perhaps. Here's a rundown: American football player Mike Vick, of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, is indicted for illegal dog fighting (and cruelty); four or five bikers in the Tour de France (the biggest bike race on the planet) are suspected of (or caught with) illegal performance enhancing drugs in their systems (one of the favorites pulled out of the race after failing a drug test); Barry Bonds is about to break professional baseball’s most coveted record but with the glaring and sun-sized asterisk pointing toward steroid use (suspected and now under investigation), though he's one of many modern professional baseball heroes associated with a "little help from my friends" (not exactly Ringo's drugs, but steroids); a St. Louis Cardinal pitcher dies earlier this spring in a traffic accident with high alcohol levels found in his blood, the same alcohol that sponsors (actually “funds”) the sport, an ironic connection nobody in the sport is willing to make; “professional” fake wrestler Chris Benoit commits suicide (after taking the life of his wife and son) and found with steroids in his system; a referee of the National Basketball Association is accused of and under Federal investigation for gambling on games that he himself officiated (and thus in the convenient position to alter the outcome and point spread of a game); professional athletes are increasingly paid astronomical amounts of money (poor kids suddenly millionaires with no clue of how to manage the cash or the culture); the teams can pay the cash because the public's paid engagement does not seem to be ebbing.

Athleticism has always been a human fascination, and not without validity. I myself follow a team or two. And from the essence of things, it does not seem so sinister, this primordial appreciation for people able to apply their practiced physical craft in wondrous ways. (Maybe there's something true about adults playing out their fantasies through the feats of others, a narcissistic attempt at being greater than what they really are.) But with bad news dropping in almost all the time, corruption may irreversibly alter the games. It is inevitable, when you think about it. Why should professional (and even amateur) sports be spared the culture of cheating, a corruption with fake results, no weapons of mass destruction, and still keep the stadiums filled, lackeys of journalism unable or unwilling to confront reality, a public too sedated to demand answers, to speak truth to power?


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