Monday, November 26, 2007

State of Sports

I love sports. Everything about them. The competition. The brotherhood within a team, and within the fans of teams. The ecstasy and jubilation that comes with a big win. The depression that comes with a crushing defeat. Huge rivalries. The history. Arguing what player or team is better. Fantasy sports. Writing about them.

But in the last few months, all the headlines I've seen have started to turn my stomach. Barry Bonds breaking the home-run record, then getting indicted. The A-Rod and Kobe soap operas. Steroids and HGH in baseball (and football, and the Olympics), making me question every time an athlete in these sports does something spectacular. Floyd Landis and cycling blood-doping. Skyrocketing salaries. Hockey losing a season to a strike. Michael Vick, Chris Henry, Tank Johnson, Travis Henry, Pacman Jones, and every other football player that can't stay out of cuffs. The Patriots spying scandal. Reggie Bush's marketing deal in college. Mike Tyson's return to prison. Isaiah Thomas harassing his female workers. Spoiled NBA players (i.e. Stephon Marbury not playing because the Knicks want to buyout his contract). Blatant and widespread tanking in the NBA. Eddie Griffin's alcoholism and drunk-driving death. And that's just what I came up with off the top of my head in the two minutes since I decided to write this.

My buddy Joe wrote a blog about much he hates the news these days because there is never anything positive talked about, and some times I feel like my morning Sportscenter viewings are getting to that same point. I have to go through 20 minutes of crap before I can get to some good old highlights. So, for my own sanity, I've decided to make some posts about the great stories in sports.

The Atlantic Sun Conference:
Let's go smallest to biggest. Belmont, last year's A-Sun tourney team, knocks off Cincinati. Mercer goes to into the Galen Center and knocks off USC and all-world recruit OJ Mayo 96-81. And my favorite: Garnder-Webb. A little school in North Carolina with a roster made up of three guys from Australia and two from Africa, whose best player walked-on after recieving only one scholarship offer from Eastern Illinois (by the way, he was first team all-state in Indiana his senior with Mike Conley Jr., Greg Oden, Eric Gordon, and I believe Luke Harangody from Notre Dame), and whose coach spent numerous years at a little school in Kentucky dreaming of coaching in Rupp arena. GW goes into Rupp on the opening night of the Coaches vs. Cancer classic and not only beats Big Blue, manhandles them. They scored the first 14 points of the game and never lead by less than 7.

Part of the reason I love college basketball is when the little guys knock of the big guys like this. You almost never see upsets of this caliber in other sports. When you compare the USC and Kentucky upsets to the Michigan loss to Appalachain State in college football, the USC and Kentucky losses are worse. Neither of these teams were good last year, whereas Appalachain State were defending national champions. USC and Kentucky were both blown out, as opposed to Michigan, who had the game-winning field goal blocked at the end of regulation. And the Michigan loss garnered ten times a much national attention and media coverage as either of the basketball upsets.

Most players on these low D1 teams (and for D2 and D3 teams) play strictly for the love of the game, in all sports really. These aren't the guys that are leaving college early or are strictly playing for guaranteed contracts/gold medals. These aren't the guys that get recognized everywhere on campus, are asked for autographs everywhere they go, or are given grades because they are athletes. They are true student-athletes. Kids that play through the same amount of pain, work just as hard in-season and during the off-season, and put themselves through all of that just because they love their sport. While guys like Derrick Rose or Pat White will 'Wow' you with their ability and are really just a joy to watch play, you have to give the utmost respect to the thousands of athletes that do it strictly for the love of their respective game.

1 comment:

Joe said...

I'm with you about just wanting to see the highlights. I think that these stories about vick and bonds are played up because people want to see these high profile athletes fail. So many sportswriters (skip bayless and steven a. smith come to mind, there are countless others) want nothing more than to stand on a soapbox while they endlessly criticize the shit out of mistakes that these people make.

When the Vick story broke this summer, i remember turning on sportscenter and having to listen to every person under the sun's thoughts and feelings on the case. I could care less, all I wanted to see was the great baseball plays from the night before or a preview of the USA basketball team. People get so hung up on the bad things that might happen in the world of sports and forget about why we watch sports to begin with.