Saturday, February 20, 2010


So here we go. Another sportsman tearfully proclaims his remorse and asks for our forgiveness.

I've had it with these jerks. I wish the general public who spend their hard-earned money to attend sporting events to watch these people hit little balls around or homo-erotically wrestle with eachother for a larger ball would understand that most of these guys, while large and well-formed on the outside, are really just oversized, early-adolescent boys. They have grown up in the spotlight and their main psychic fuel comes from being the center of attention. As they morph into 'men', that fuel also comes from the multitude of 'conquests' they achieve through the endless women who want to be associated with their success and celebrity and, therefore, 'power'.

But these words, power, success, conquest, are just that: words. What power is there in being able to put a ball in a hoop? Or having a zillion clams in your bank account? Do we define success by the number of people who know who we are?

I'm happy to be amazed by the physical prowess of some of these guys- their work ethic, their passion. But let's be clear. The masculine sense of 'mission' that we are breeding into our male athletes (and some female ones) has become warped by our overhyping and overestimation of what they do and the contribution they make. Tiger Woods hits a little ball into a hole. Michael Jordan threw a larger round ball into a net. Yes, they can bring pleasure to us through their deeds but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that anything or anyone is being 'conquered' here and, more importantly, why are we so such slavish in our admiration of what we perceive as conquest, whether in the bedroom or anywhere else?

For me, this is one of the core paradigms that needs changing in our society. It is this obsession with conquest that leads America into useless wars and on the smaller scale allows us to turn a blind eye to poor behaviour from our athletes and/or to endow them with greater humanity than they may possess. Dreams and visions of 'conquest', further pumped up by the constant stream of violence and jingoistic machismo by our media and 'entertainment' industry inspires many of us to take up causes for and give our precious treasure to endeavours that may not actually be in our best interests.

Tiger Woods showed us who he really was when he got caught and hid like a coward from the cameras and then continued his cowardice by refusing to take questions at his long overdue press conference. Mark McGwire showed us the reality of his inner smallness by lying about his reasons for taking steroids. Kirby Puckett beat and terrorised his wife and yet is still spoken of glowingly as if that never happened. Enough.

It's time to ratchet down the importance we give to people playing silly if lovable games. It's time to start valuing what people give to our society and what they create for its betterment instead of what they take and what they kill or 'conquer'. Maybe it's also time to stop emptying our wallets for these sporting institutions and start thinking of other ways to help give poor kids a way out of hopelessness that is sustainable and more far-reaching.
Remember the next time you hear someone gush about how great it is that sport gives poor kids 'a way out' that only a tiny fraction of impoverished children (of which there are millions) in this country actually make it out of poverty through successful sporting careers or athletic scholarship.

I applaud the impulse inside Tiger Woods and the rest to be as great as they can be at what they do. But there has to be a parallel track that compels them to be great at who they are as well.

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