Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Stupidity of Sport

Looks like it's almost official: National Hockey League team owners will be locking the players out effective midnight, putting this season into jeopardy.

My brain is already percolating toxic thoughts on both sides of this most ridiculous of disputes. Toxic because no one in this community of idiots seems to grasp the concept that owners and players are together engaged in the business of entertainment. The games are nothing more than shows for a paying audience. By pursuing this endlessly and destructively adversarial relationship, they risk killing the goose that has been laying golden eggs for generations.

A little perspective is in order, because both sides clearly lack any at this point in time. Like all professional sports, hockey lives in a far more competitive world today than it did when there were only six teams in the league, two black-and-white channels on television and no computers beyond the monsters that sat in the basement of your bank's headquarters.

Kids today, who supposedly represent sport's future generations of fans, grow up with far more material things to do than our parents did. Between judo, soccer, and music lessons, their after-school time is also significantly more rigidly-scheduled than that of their ancestors. Take away hockey and their time will easily be occupied by something else. The National Hokey League (no, that's not a typo) folks should be lying awake at nights worried that these kids will never come back.

I'm going to be figuratively crucified for saying this, but in the overall scheme of things, hockey matters about as much on the celestial scale as a McDonald's Happy Meal and an empty Bic pen. One can make a similar argument for pretty much every major professional sport today. Unbelievably overpaid, under-brained, and uncultured "stars" blather on and on about the significance of their contributions to the world stage while the true heroes of our time are shut out of media coverage because the sports wrapup has to occupy its static 12-minute slot within the 6- and 11-o'clock newscasts. (For that, we can include in this blame-game the brain-dead news and program directors at every local television and radio station across the land for perpetuating this pox on modern culture.)

That these losers of society euphemistically known as professional athletes were ever considered role models by children is laughable in this day and age. It might have been true once. No longer.

The meaninglessness of it all is beyond staggering, yet we continue to reward these morons - owners and players alike - by dropping hundreds of dollars at a shot to watch them play. Then we pay even more to wear their logos on our behinds and on gas-sucking flags that we hang off of our cars to show our undying devotion to players who would just as soon run us over if they saw us in the street. I once even worked with someone who wore his favorite team's logo in the corner of his eyeglasses. I mean, come on people, get a grip!

As if to underscore our desire for self-flagellation, we whimper and whine when labor disputes keep our failed heroes from playing their little games for us. Why is that?

I really don't know, and I really don't care. I'm drawing my own line in the sand. I'm done. Life means far more than hockey, and I'd be happy to have the entire league implode if it means the rest of us can get on with the business of appreciating true contributions to the advancement of humankind - as opposed to which steroid-popping, cash-worshipping, classless doofus managed to get the puck into the net more often.

If I'm really that crazed about watching what should be a pure sport, I'll head down to the local rink this winter and watch kids playing because they simply love the game.

Rant over. For now.


Rachel - Wicked Ink said...

Well written! I agree, especially with the last line. I don't watch regular season hockey on TV, and only if I am at my fathers house, will I sit down and watch a playoff game with him. It's important to him, and makes him happy that we share that with him.

It irks me (well, pisses me off) that the Olympians are professional hockey players. Almost every other sport is made up of non-professional athletes, and I think the opportunity should go to our junior leagues to apply for and recieve a position on the Olympic Team Canada.

I love watching the local junior team hit the ice. I love even more watching the 11 year olds. All heart, no Head (how can this work to my advantage during salary negotiations?)

I think we forget our National Sport is actually Lacrosse.

Kate said...

I agree with you about the importance of hockey with regard to the big picture.
That said, some people theorize that the reason sports enjoy such popularity is because people that watch live vicariously through the athletes, and games provide an outlet for otherwise bottled aggression.
Maybe true. Still, hockey/baseball/football player does not equal hero, at least to me.

Oz said...

I don't have any sympathy for either hockey or baseball players. The salary cap is the best thing that can happen to a sport. Look at how the NFL has florished. The best thing about the NFL is that a team that was at the bottom one year can be in the Superbowl the next (ala the Carolina Panthers), and this is directly related to the salary cap. It makes the game better, because it spreads the good players around and evens things out. So when the owners say, "We want a salary cap," I say, "Good!" When the players resist, I think they are hurting the game, the fans, and ultimately, themselves.

Wheelson said...

I agree with Oz. This year I'm excited to watch some football because my local team, the Seahawks have managed to put together a pretty exciting team. The turnaround time for team reinventing themselves has been helped by salary caps. Nobody wants to watch the same team, or same core set of teams win every season (except those home town fans). As the season get's predictable, fans tune out. Worse however, is when a team buys the best talent around (LA Lakers for example) and then flame out.

In the US where football is a sport deeply rooted in our culture (at every high school and college the most popular sport is football), when the pro teams start to have their problems, we always have the college teams to fall back on.

Does Canada have a similar relationship with hockey? What about the recent World Cup game?

Also, there is still room for Athletes to be role models. Remember...Lance Armstrong is a professional athlete making tons of money just like the others. The difference? Armstrong is humble. He's the most professional athlete I've ever seen as you can see when he talks about his team, his sport and his foes.

As an American I have no right to say anything to a Canadian about hockey...I'm not worthy! But I will say American's have had the same turmoil in our "national past time" sports and I've seen the same rants during those times. With the entire nation behind the fast and furious sport of hockey it'll work itself out and it'll be stronger as a result.

carmilevy said...

Thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts on this rather personal - well, on a national scale, anyway - topic.

There are some who would argue that Canada's national religion is hockey. I remember pickup games on the outdoor rink in the park near my house. They'd go on until late into the bitterly cold night (I lived just north of Montreal, Quebec.) Some kids would even stay after the main lights went off, skating around to the dim glow cast by the streetlights from the nearby road.

But Canada's national sport is actually lacrosse. Our college/university sports system is a bit of a joke, and we've lost two major teams in the past decade, and this lockout could threaten others. The real value of hockey to Canadian culture lies in its grassroots connection to players and families. Although the NHL has little to do with this on a day-to-day basis, the impact of losing the halo of the NHL is difficult to measure at this time.

One hopes both sides - especially the players, who against logic are rejecting a salary cap despite the proof that it can rejuvenate an entire league if administered properly - will soon decide to work together for the sake of their league, their sport, the thousands of regular folks whose livelihoods depend on them, and an entire society that loses something, if not earth-shattering, then notable, if the league implodes in the process.