Remember when sports was a fun thing ? Get out in the fresh air, get some exercise, enjoy some competitive camaraderie ... as Len Berman says, "sports is supposed to be the toy department" of life.
Well, basically, that's still true ... or it can be. On a true amateur level, with responsible supervision... Okay, well, maybe I'm dreaming ...
I saw an article the other day which listed the "Top 10 Sports Stories" of the year - an annual year-end compilation. Here are the Top 10 stories of 2011, as determined in a poll of Associated Press sports writers :
1.Penn State sex scandal; 2. Lockouts in the NBA/NFL; 3. Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl; 4. College Conference Realignment; 5. St. Louis Cardinals win World Series; 6. Ohio State football scandal; 7. Dallas Mavericks win NBA title; 8. the death of race car driver Dan Wheldon; 9. the Syracuse sex scandal; 10. Japan's victory in the World Cup women's soccer championship.
Let's see... How many of the Top 10 stories involved actual competition on the playing field? Five at the most, but that number includes Wheldon's death, in which the actual competition was not the story, so we'll say 4 stories. Only 40 per cent of the "best" sports stories of the year actually involved on-the-field athletic competition.
Three of the remaining three stories (30 % of all the stories named) involved men's professional sports. There were three stories involving college sports - BUT all three involved off-the-field scandals. And let's face it, Penn State and Ohio State football - and, perhaps to a lesser extent Syracuse basketball - are not exactly amateur sports, as we once knew them.
So what do we have left? Three teams of "overpaid" athletes , two of them among the storied franchises of their sport and the other a first-time champion, and the Japanese Women's Soccer Team - a sport about which many adult U.S. men know little or nothing at all - whether it be women or men. An inspiring story, I guess, but even that story just snuck in at number 10.
There are no exciting college basketball or football games mentioned in the Top 10, no Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, RG III, Derek Jeter ...
What happened? Is it any wonder that many youngsters these days don't seem to have sports heroes, or don't want to do the hard work it takes to become an accomplished athlete themselves?
If they read the sports pages at all, or watch sports news on ESPN or elsewhere, there's just not a lot there to inspire future fandom.