Disillusionment…

Disillusionment-disappointment caused by a frustrated ideal or belief…

A-Rod, Ryan Braun, Aaron Hernandez, Lance Armstrong…Countless others being arrested for assault, battery, drug possession, weapons possession, sexual assault…Suspensions for PEDs, conduct…Contract holdouts and other such disputes…

 Where does it end? Maybe a better question is ‘where does it begin?’, or perhaps ‘WHY does it begin? I have been a rabid sports fan my entire life. From the very first time I watched football with my late father (I was 4 years old…), up to and including today, very few things grab my attention like sports.  There are precious few things that I would rather do than go to a MLB or NHL game. If the N.Y. Rangers or the Boston Red Sox are being televised, then you are almost guaranteed to find me glued to the TV to watch. My wife knows that if she has something to do that I absolutely abhor and want nothing to do with, and then that would be the time for her to do it…without me.

 In the last few years, something has changed. You have heard the expression ‘Don’t hate the players, hate the game’, right? I am not so sure that is entirely accurate. The game doesn’t sexually assault someone. The game doesn’t get busted for weapons or drug possession. The game isn’t responsible for the conduct of its participants. The players are responsible for their own conduct, and I think that is part of where my disillusionment comes from.

 This change didn’t happen overnight. The change crept in like a thief in the night, to steal the innocence of a game and replace it with something worse. To replace the love of the game with the love of self-promotion and money.  As a kid, I had my sports heroes. They were named Luzinski, Fisk, Belitnikoff, Greschner, Tanana, and although I never got to see him pitch, Koufax, because of his steadfast belief that his observation of his religion and the worship of his God came before any game, no matter how ‘important’ the game was. This was a man of principle. He was a true role model. Sadly, men like these do not seem to exist anymore in our sports universe. Although I am sure that we can name a few exceptions (Cal Ripken Jr.? Mark Messier?), but they have become more the exception than the rule.

 Now, before we go any further, I know there is plenty of one-off, anecdotal evidence that contradicts what I am talking about, but try to keep in mind that I am talking about the big picture and the overall impression that I have of what has happened to my beloved wide world of sports. Ok, players drank. Players used methamphetamine (speed).They gambled. They got into bar fights (Billy Martin and the Copacabana). They caroused until all hours of the night or morning. They occasionally had contract disputes. But not a single one of them ever hacked their ex-wife and her boyfriend to death. None of them ever had over-hyped decisions to take their talents to South Beach. None of them ever held out because$ 70M was a slap in the face. None of them ever lured a so-called friend to an empty lot and shot him to death. None of them ever ran a dog-fighting kennel and put the losing animals to death by beating, drowning, or electrocution. What has happened to our world?

 I don’t know what the answer is. I am not even sure that I know what the correct question is. Something is very wrong, and I am not sure if it is attributable to only one cause. Is it the change in the culture of the sports world? Is it a change in what we as a people find to be ‘acceptable’ behavior? Is it a lowering of our moral standards? Is it because people seem to need to be constantly stimulated? Is it because of the Twitter-Facebook-camera phone- 24-7 microscope that is now prevalent in our society? Is it the brazen self-aggrandizing by the players? Is it the over-commercialism that sports have devolved into? Again, I don’t know. I just find myself wishing that it wasn’t so…

 When I was a kid, I used to really look forward to around 9:30-10:00AM, because that is when my local Newsday would be delivered. On a summer day, I would sit outside my house and wait for it, and then grab it before my mom could get to it, so I could get to sports page as quickly as possible. I simply couldn’t wait to see what had happened the night before. Did Luzinski crush another one over the wall at Veterans Stadium? Did Fisk make another brilliant defensive play at Fenway? How many K’s did Tanana have at the Big A? There was no ESPN as we know it. There was no internet (I guess Al Gore hadn’t invented it yet). Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? MLB Network? If I wanted to watch baseball, it was WOR channel 9 for the Mets, with Lindsay Nelson and Ralph Kiner on the call, and WPIX channel 11 for the Yankees, with Phil Rizzuto and Frank Messer. And there was Monday Night Baseball as well. It was a great time to be a kid. All my friends would show up at my house around the same time that the newspaper came around, and we would sit in the shade of the overhang of our garage and debate all things baseball, and that was our world. We would finish up with that, and then it was Whiffleball for the rest of the day, until we got called for dinner or it got dark. Now, when I get home and turn on Sportscenter, I can, more often than not, be greeted not with the scores and highlights, but rather with the latest developments in the scandals and lawsuits and arrests from our world of sports. And that just isn’t right. What happened to our world?

 I am not looking to draw conclusions, but rather I am trying to encourage thought. The truth is that I have no idea, but I do know that it is somehow wrong. That somehow, we have been robbed of something if not important, but precious to us just the same… and we are never going to get it back.

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