Sports is an industry that has never been compared to supersymmetric quantum mechanics. It hasn’t been awarded any Nobel Peace Prizes. However, I believe it is one of the five global languages, joining music, visual arts, religion, science and dance. For the most part, sports is civilized, but we are starting to see some fraying around the edges both on the field and in the stands.
Our media-driven society deals with instant affirmation and even speedier deconstruction. Today’s world of multimedia attention spans is measured in nanoseconds. We seem to care more about the skinny on the Kardashians than the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. Lady Gaga wearing a meat dress gets more ink than our crumbling education system. Players, coaches, owners and fans don’t think the rules pertain to them. It’s time to reflect on why we love sports and get a grip on treating the game and each other with respect.
Sports has been very good to us. It has given America rest and recreation, myths and memories, heroes and history. It has mirrored our society and at times propelled us, offering models for democracy, community, commerce and common humanity. More importantly, sports can be an engine of common human decency.
In all sectors of our daily lives, there are signs that we are losing that sense of decency. If you want to see signs of the coming apocalypse, just think about your last experiences traveling by air anywhere, driving to work, enjoying a nice quiet night out at the movies, having some bozo in the express line in front of you with 27 items instead of 10 at the new Amazon-Whole Foods Market, having a simple nonconfrontational time at a ballgame with your family.
Sports is being infused into our culture on a level never seen before in history.
We watch it in person on TV.
We listen to hours of sports talk radio.
We wear it.
We paint our faces with it, even tattoo it on various body parts.
We play it.
We eat and drink at it. “Please pass the garlic fries.”
We travel to it.
We push our kids into it.
We think we can coach and ref- eree it.
We photograph it.
We videotape it.
We play video games of it.
We read about it.
We Tweet, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram Text and Twackle it.
We fantasy league it.
We e-game it.
We bet on it.
We bring nonsensical signs to it.
We TIVO and DVR it.
WE VR and AR it.
We soccer mom to it.
We debate it ad nauseum.
We act like we are players and not spectators at games.
The savage beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow, a father of two from Santa Cruz, brought national outrage and focus to fan behavior at sporting events. This horrific example of fan behavior gone bad is not the norm. Stow’s attackers weren’t sports fans but common street thugs.
Ballparks, arenas and playing fields throughout the U.S. represent the last town squares left in our country. Leagues, teams and fans have to work together to make sure that the ballpark experience from driveway to driveway remains a safe haven for all who love sports.
Andy Dolich operates Dolich & Associates, a sports consultancy, in Los Altos.