Escaping From My Escape?

Any of you who have been readers of this blog or my past blog at RedStateGay know that I have two major passions in life – politics and sports.  Everyday when I arrive home from work I spend a couple or a few hours online reading everything I can about politics and quite a bit about sports as well.  Sports (particularly college sports) has always been my escape.  Sometimes, after a bad day at work, I don’t want to read all about the negative things going in the world or the bloodsport known as politics.  So, I often lose myself in the pages of ESPN.com, SportsIllustrated.com, SportingNews.com, etc.

Sports had always been an innocent diversion for me.  I always love to keep up with my Oklahoma Sooners, my high school alma mater, Midland Lee, some pro sports, most college sports.  My thirst for knowledge extended beyond politics to a place where men and women competed in the realm of athletics in order to attain excellence.  The competition and personalities that come with the world of sports is almost equal to that of politics. When I didn’t want to read about the latest suicide bombing in the Middle East or the latest filibuster in the Senate – I could always check the scores from last night’s basketball games.

Unfortunately, I think my favorite escape has gone the way of politics and current events.  For every interesting or uplifting story I read on ESPN.com, there are plenty more to bring me down.  I’m left to wonder what the world is coming to when our sports heros become as tainted as third-world dictators or scandalous politicians.

Consider today’s headlines at ESPN.com.  I checked into sports first today after I got home from work.  If you go onto ESPN.com’s page, there will be the main page with headlines from various sports.  Across the top of the page, there is a link that you can click on that will take you to another “main page” for each major sport.  As I clicked on each one, I became despondent and disheartened.  I might as well have read the obituaries or police reports in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  Here is a sampling of the headlines:

A-Rod Expects Drug Questions

Formula One’s Alonso Rejects Spain Racism Claims

LSU QB Perrilloux Suspended For Rules Violation

DUI Arrest Costs Vol Punter 5 Games, Scholarship

Gamecocks WR Lecorn Arrested On Drug Charges

Ex-Texas RB Taylor Sent To Jail For 5 Months

FSU Puts Itself on 2 Years Probation After Scandal

Discipline Considered For Beavers In Confrontation

Charges Dropped vs. Memphis’ Taggart, Robinson

Junior’s Nationwide crew Chief Suspended 6 Races

Stewart, K. Busch Placed On Probation

Chelsea Boss Grant Receives Death Threats

Are you depressed yet?  I sure was.  Something as innocent and entertaining as athletic competition has suddenly become a reminder of the worries, scandals, crimes and drama that plague so many aspects of our everyday lives.  Nothing can be more relaxing and exciting as a day at the ballpark or watching football on the big screen with your buddies at home.  But now, sports has become a drama that reflects so many of the negative realities in everyday life.

I’ll readily admit that part of the problem is news coverage in the realm of sports. History is full of athletes and sports teams tainted by scandal.  The new age of the media and the papparazi have placed the spotlight on athletes. We know more today about these celebrities than people ever knew of Babe Ruth or Wilt Chamberlain in their wild heydays.

But I also see more of these issues pouring into college and high school sports where the young men and women were supposed to be insulated from the excesses of money and fame.  I gave up on most pro sports long ago because I was disenfranchised by the commercialism and drama that was so rampant among the professionals.  But now I see these young people tainted by adults and the images of celebrities.  I see college stars being arrested or booted off teams.  I see schools being investigated for cheating or paying players.

It makes me want to give up on society at times.  I’m not sure what to think. My heros are not the overpaid pros who have big houses and rich, belligerent agents.  My heros are the kids who get a scholarship to a great college or university.  The young men and women who play sports, not for pay, but for the love of the game.  Now – even that is disappearing in a haze of greed awash with dollars.  Coaches and schools who are supposed to be instilling a sense of worth in these students are allowing them to run rampant and get themselves into legal trouble. And some of these coaches are criminal as well.

I’m all about personal responsibility, but our institutions of higher learning are supposed to be dedicated to education and arming their students with the tools they need to be productive adults.  In the area of athletics, that is not happening.  Slowly, the line is being blurred between pro and college and high school athletics  More of these athletes are ending up in rehab, on the streets, or in jail.  Sports at this level was supposed to build character, promote friendly competition and teach life lessons.  Reading those headlines makes me think otherwise.

And that makes me sad.

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