The Problem with Sports [The Best of jaceonline]

Author’s note: I used to blog at, and in an effort to introduce myself to new readers and hopefully wring a little more entertainment value out of those old posts, I’m going to be dipping into the old site and re-posting some of my favorite entries. Hey, if Leo Sayer can have a “best of” collection, so can I. Anyway, here’s a particularly appropriate post, written in the lead up to Super Bowl XLI.

I love reading columnist Bill Simmons. He makes me laugh out loud more consistently than any other writer working today. But,lordy, no one can annoy us like the ones we love. Bill is a hugeantic New England Patriots fan–the kind of fan who is oblivious to how irritating his fandom can be to those who don’t share it. As New England prepared to play Indianapolis for a spot in the Super Bowl, Bill wondered why more people weren’t rooting for his Pats. He came to the only possible
logical conclusion… there’s something wrong with sports itself!

Bear in mind, this is a guy who is a life-long sports fan, who has been a sports journalist for 10 years plus, and who writes enough words on sports every week to give Stephen King a case of sympathetic carpel tunnel syndrome. He’s seen drug scandals, strikes, and lock-outs. He’s seen players attack players, players attack coaches, fans attack coaches, and owners attack whole cities. But this…THIS is the moment that he decides that hate has taken over sports: when other people don’t like his favorite team as much as he does.

And I get the part where the outside world is ready for another team, because that’s the way our society works now: We embrace something new, digest it, beat it into the ground and move on to something else….[Ellipsis, because he writes a LOT. Did I mention that? – j] It’s the Everything Sucks Era. We spend an inordinate amount of time bitching about everyone else.Nobody’s good, nobody’s worthwhile and everybody needs to go away. That’s the prevailing theme. And after their third Super Bowl victory, the Patriots entered the “all right, you guys can go away now,
you’ve ceased to be interesting” stage of their run, where we’ve been stuck for the past two seasons. I’m sure the players and coaches don’t care, but for the fans, it’s been bittersweet and even a little discouraging. If you can’t appreciate THIS team, even as an impartial observer, what does that say about the future of

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the statement of a jackass: “People don’t like my favorite movie / politician / team, therefore there’s something wrong with culture / politics / sports!” I’ve got no problem with people being so completely sold out for a team that they see past all the annoyances; that’s what makes good marriages. But if you’re a grown-up, you’ve at least got to know, in the back of your mind, that not everybody will like your team as much as you do.

I’m just speculating here, but here are some reasons people might dislike the Patriots: 1) America loves underdogs, and I don’t care if you have the most inspiring, heart-warming, up-from-the-gutter story in the world; I don’t care if your life story makes Will Smith’s character in “The Pursuit ofHappyness ” look like Paris Hilton with brains and a scratch golf game–once you win 3 out of 4 Super Bowls, you are no longer the underdog. You are The Man. And America hates The Man. 2) Male sports fans can only put up with the pretty boy quarterback for so long. 3) I follow pro football only casually, but I have ESPN on in the background all the time. I am sick to death of hearing round table discussions on how the Patriots may be the greatest pro sports team of all time. Let’s move on to something else, folks. I’d rather hear that Sean Paul song another million times. (Wait, scratch that. Tell me more about that dreamy Tom Brady.) 4) The Pats’ coach is an unrepentant a-hole who apparently can’t dress himself and has no interest in learning how. And hey, coach, thanks for that classy post-game interview.

Hate is a healthy, time-honored tradition in sports fandom, no more common now than it ever has been. If you want to know what’s wrong with sports nowadays, let this Patriot hater tell you.

Athletes discovered the word “respect.”
Respect is another time-honored sports tradition. Athletes have been playing for respect since there have been athletes. The thing is, they never talked about it. It was always just understood.

Now every third-string, minor league yahoo has got to go on and on about how he doesn’t get his respect. Even more annoying, they keep going on about it even after they win. This was a particular problem with the Patriots, who would only be satisfied if Hollywood devoted the whole of its production capacity to soft-focus documentaries on the cleft in Brady’s chin.

Reporters discovered the word “choke.”
Sports reporting once had a dignified, majestic quality; it was about the victors and the vanquished. Now we just have “winners” and “chokers.” Apparently it’s no longer possible to play hard and well and still lose to a better opponent. Now every loss means somebody choked, and we have to find out who it is and pound him relentlessly until he bursts into tears or goes on a shooting spree. At which point he’s no longer a choker, but a head case who couldn’t handle the pressure.

Next to these problems, Patriot hate doesn’t even register. I say, keep it coming (and Yankee hate too).

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