ANGLES: America’s favorite pastime or biggest waste of time: Are sports beneficial?

No, consumers overfund sports and 

over-idolize athletes  

JACOB KNUTSON

jaknutson15@ole.augie.edu

Flip through any magazine and you are bound to find a sports story about overcoming the odds and achieving an exemplary feat—think Michael Oher, Yasiel Puig, and the 2016 Cubs. The growing number of these stories continually illustrates the beauty of sport. 

Sports can expose the raw elegance of the human spirit and its knack for perseverance under unbearable conditions. image5.png

However, if we are to acknowledge the positive qualities of sport, we must also confront the unadmirable standards those who govern sports demand.

Historically, from ancient to modern sports, those who govern or “teach” sport—coaches, teachers, directors—have expected players to embody anti-intellectualism, emotional illiteracy, unrelentless anger and corruption to get ahead in the game. 

And for all the stories which exemplify the virtuous qualities of sport, there are just as many exposing the vile qualities, such as Barry Bonds, Mike Tyson and Lance Armstrong.

 These athletes are the product of their conditioning and their audience’s expectations. They embody the old addage: “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” 

It is the audience—us, the viewers—who expect big hits and flagrant fouls. Remember the backlash after the NFL banned helmet-to-helmet collisions?

It is through our veneration, or rather, our perverse obsession, with sports figures that these qualities seep into society. Think of how many young, malleable athletes look up to professional athletes. This is fine if athletes exemplify integrity, but if not, they could teach children horrible attributes.

Furthermore, while school teachers struggle to buy supplies for their classrooms, directors, owners, coaches and professional athletes earn hundreds of millions of dollars. Regardless whether they are deserving of the money, we must prioritize our wants and desires. 

This does not mean we starve funding for sports. We can afford to simultaneously enjoy sports, adequately pay school teachers, and help those in poverty attain their basic needs, but this requires us to be conscious consumers. It requires that those who govern sports enact changes.

The dissenter is correct in saying that sports build communities, but only on the local level. Professional sports senselessly divides our society. A Vikings fan meets a Packers fan and five minutes later, they are bickering. It may be harmless, but in some cases not. Take, for example, the Steve Bartman story. 

At some point we have to step back and take stock. We have to ask if sports really bring us together or if this notion is a well-manicured ploy by the sports industry to justify its existence. 

We also have to ask if sports are so important to threaten the life of one of our fellow citizens or if the sports industry inflates its importance to make money. We at least have to remember that professional sports is a business, and the purpose of a business is to gain capital and protect its brand.

In the meantime, if society is going to continue to grant sports copious amounts of attention, we must ensure that the institution is promoting beneficial values. Historically, sports have failed to do so, but with recent bans, especially in the NFL, we are beginning to see better, more respectable games.

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