I still have boxes and boxes of baseball cards from my junior high and high school days. I knew the stats. I followed players. I watched the games. I dragged my non-sportsman father to the games I won tickets to from school essay competitions. I loved baseball, and even dreamed of being a pitcher for my favorite team: the Chicago White Sox.
In college, I started to follow auto-racing. I was dating a flannel-wearing girl from southern Illinois who was a Jeff Gordon fan. Hearing about how racing was more than driving around in circles piqued my interest, the muscle needed to endure a 3-hour race, the concentration needed to be inches from another driver at 200 MPH, and the science behind airflow and traction. Needless to say, since she was a “24” fan, I was one, too.
I even had loyalty to my Chicago football, basketball and hockey teams, not that I knew much about the players or regulations, but because of locale and loyalty to my city, family’s fanaticism, and wanting to bond with friends who liked these teams.
Losing My Religion and Finding My Cause
My high interest in baseball began to wane with the baseball strikes of the 1990’s, and the drug problems of my favorite players coming to light were the final nails in the coffin. The values of my 1980’s and 1990’s baseball cards had dropped. But the antique/vintage dealer in me is strong—I still hold on to them, hoping that everyone will throw their cards out and mine will be rare and valuable again.
I broke up with the Gordon fan and my pseudo-love for NASCAR began to drop off after a few years. That driver divorced his wife, and as a then-Christian I felt I had to choose another driver. I did, and kept involved with fantasy sports on Yahoo! but my interests started to take a turn.
When I left religion, I got involved with humanism and civil liberties. I took an interest in the Occupy movement. I started to learn more about money in politics. I started to have resentment towards opinionated people who knew little about human rights and democracy, but were always glued to their televisions or sports apps.
I started to wonder if professional sports were a way to keep us distracted and divided, much like coliseum days of Rome as it was starting its fall.
Why I Grew a Sports Conscience
Distancing myself from sports, I took a second look at sports-related issues that I once ignored:
- The permanent damage that playing sports as a child or as an adult can incur. Just a few examples include concussions and sports addiction. The rates of drug and alcohol addiction are higher in youth who play sports than their non-sport neighbors.
- Civil rights issues. When a player comes out as gay or lesbian, or a female wants to play on a male team or become a referee (ie: Sarah Thomas), or when Jackie Robinson joined a “white” baseball league.
- Sports parents who go to extremes: They either show no interest in their child’s games (and their dreams), or they verbally and mentally abuse them, pushing their kids to be better and better. We fight with friends and family, but cheer alongside strangers.
- Some athletes can be poor role models. For example, athletes who don’t own up to their bad decisions, professionally or personally. When they are given a slap on the wrist, it sends a clear message to youth: “Sports can give you a free pass.“
- Sports have a financial cost to many high schools and colleges. Sports can receive the majority of overall school funding and attention, putting other students and their programs at a disadvantage. As a result, students’ academic choices are limited.
- Until recently, the NFL was a non-profit organization. I cannot get past the fact that until a short while ago, the NFL is a Billion dollar charity.
- Sports can take a second place behind profit: Corporate sponsorship’s, brand logos on anything they can stick a label to and overpriced fan apparel. Most stadiums are built with the tax money, rather than the organization’s money, sometimes topping a billion dollars (e.g. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA).
- Sports riots and vandalism as a result of team wins, losses or pretty much any other reason that some people can come up with.
I am A Sportsphobe who Still Plays Sports
Professional sports may have gone overboard, but sports can have an important place:
- Sports can be an important part of our lives when it is not the sum total of who we are.
- Sports can improve health along with healthy competition.
- Sports can support community involvement and relationships.
- Sports can provide entertainment along with connection to what is truly important in our world.
The last time I checked, my couch doesn’t have a pulse. But you and I… we are alive. Sports and outside activity can change your life when you spend time with real people and have some real conversations.
– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/