The Empty Feeling of Sports: Why my nickname used to be “The Animal”

The comments I’m about to make require context since much of our current society is built around the importance of sports.  When I was in high school, my nickname was “The Animal” because of my particularly violent style of play in team sports.  Every coach and gym teacher I ever had tried hard to convince me to sacrifice my afternoons and weekends in pursuit of some ridiculous “team” concept with practices for football, track, baseball, basketball and anything else that required strength, endurance, incredible coordination, speed, charm and personal determination—because I’ve always had plenty of those attributes and often they wanted to ride my back to their own glories.  By default, I sometimes caved under the pressure as a youngster and would feel bad about it later—which is why I don’t “cave” to anybody or anything as an adult—but needless to say I would agree to play soccer to shut everybody up.  Since I didn’t care about making a living as an athlete, getting a pat on the head from a coach, having the support and friendship of my team mates, or getting an ice cream from my own parents, It created many opportunities for me to show why people called me “The Animal.”  I was hated by the opposing teams and that aspect was virtually the only reason I played organized sports at all until I could drive a car on my own and earn my personal freedom by working and earning my own money. When I could drive a car, my days of being driven to organized sports practices ended immediately—as I would not do such a thing out of my own self-interest.  And I never have looked back with reverence at those days like many adults do as middle-agers and wish I could do it again.  I did it right the first time, and I have no regrets.  Some people felt I threw away massive amounts of talent because I did not “exploit” my athletic abilities.  What they fail to realize is that by preventing myself from being exploited, that I preserved my core integrity which affords me the ability to say what I say below with authenticity.

As I mentioned yesterday (CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW) I noticed that grown adults were obsessed with information for the big BCS game between Alabama and Notre Dame, the playoff game between The Bengals and The Texans, and the wall to wall news coverage concerning sports statistics that mean nothing.  Considering that our nation has just went over the “fiscal cliff” and requires some serious consideration by the minds of those who run our American Republic they are too busy thinking about trivial nonsense involved with sports to do their jobs as caretakers of our society.  Organized sports are the harbinger of fools—it occupies their minds in a way that is pointless. For instance, with all the effort given by The Cincinnati Enquirer toward the Bengals playoff game, and all the wall-to-wall hours of discussion on talk radio and cable television dedicate to Andy Dalton and the gang what good came of any of it?  The Bengals lost yet again.  The teams that won will advance, the teams that lost have their seasons ended.  Whoever wins the Super Bowl will be forgotten within two weeks after the game is played so what was the point?  The same for the BCS title game, who will remember the victory in February? 

Now again, I understand the drama of sports.  My favorite football team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  My wife and I have been known to fly down to Tampa just to watch a game at their very cool stadium.  But there has never been a great victory or a sports moment so grand that it eclipsed the experience I’ve had reading even a mediocre book.  Reading for me is much more powerful because it is the ultimate individually based endeavor—whereas sports are shared—collective experiences—and if you read here often then it is already known what a big “no, no” that is.  I would say that much of the reason our current society is so sick, is because of the distraction it has with sports and the mental investment in collective based endeavors. 

Many colleges are supported with tuitions because of their sports programs.  Many public schools receive community support because of their sporting programs.  Many kids play sports so they can get scholarships to attend university so they can play sports for that school and help sell the entire university with sporting events that have nothing to do with scholastic aptitude or the advancement of the human mind.  Public schools even shut down and have a “pep rally” for the entire school before a big game to unify the eyes and ears of the students, their parents, and everyone else around the community.  So it is very important to our modern society who wins and who loses a sporting event.  For the winners it often means more money and community support of higher taxes or tuition–for the losers it means constantly reshuffling coaching staffs so people can hope to have a victory in the future. 

But in the end, the victories are forgotten within days, and the loses are painted over—and nobody really cares.  This fascination with sports is no different from the mob during the Roman Empire’s fascination with gladiator arena games.  The fascination with barbaric games is the sign of a society in decline, and America is on that path led by the education institutions that should stand against such a thought.  They betray their own cause with an hypocrisy that cannot be forgiven or rationalized. 

In the case of the Cincinnati Bengals, because of their foolish love of sports, the entire city has ignored that the owner—Mike Brown, has robbed the community of many millions of dollars through the Paul Brown Stadium deal to provide a mediocre product that occasionally goes to the playoffs.  His product otherwise ties up prime real-estate downtown with only eight games a year yet people accept it because they look forward every day with many thousands of dollars in personal investment toward a game like what happened on Saturday January 5th 2013 between the Bengals and the Texans.  When the Bengals lost, it soon became realized how much money was wasted on the team, the stadium, and the amount of time gone forever thinking about the gladiator sport of football only to walk away with an empty feeling in the end and the proclamation—“maybe next year.”  America is still failing economically, and all the personal problems people have in their lives are still there.  That empty feeling people have after a sporting event comes to a close is the reality they have put off while they poured their attention into the distraction of sports they should have given to the lives they are living.  Pretty soon those “maybe next years” add up to old age with their lives behind them instead of in front and a head of empty ideas shaped by sports statistics. 

Sports are not the measure of goodness that so many people think it is.  It is a commitment to social failure and a mental investment that never pays off.   Sports can earn for the athlete some brief fortune and glory only because the social stigma tosses looted money and cheap women at the gladiators during victories.  But they are always short-lived and the trade-off isn’t worth it.  For those who believe it is—they have never really lived to begin with.  Sports is the folly of fools and but an excuse to cast their minds into evasion—which will solve nothing and lead them individually into a slow decline both physically and mentally.   Marshall McLuhan had it right when he said:

 “The school system, custodian of print culture, has no place for the rugged individual. It is, indeed, the homogenizing hopper into which we toss our integral tots for processing.”

Marshall McLuhan (1911–80), Canadian communications theorist. The Gutenberg Galaxy, “Cervantes Confronted [1]

I’ll take the rugged individual over the sports star any day.  I’ll take a good book over the cheap women won in a sports victory.  I’ll take the retained investment of knowledge over the result of a final score every single time.  Sports are the devices that makes those custodian’s of print culture seem worthwhile by glazing over the empty feelings following losses with the term, “maybe next year,” forever keeping analysis from happening today on the worth of such a faulty cause.   This is why my nickname was “The Animal.” The rage I expressed on the field of play was not to impress my coaches or the fans.  It was a hatred of the pawns on the field with me, and a desire to devour them with superior aptitude that I personally thought so little of—so much so that I would not even think of exploiting it for my own personal gain obtaining the riches of a society that is morally bankrupt.

[1]The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University Press. Copyright © 1993, 1995 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Rich Hoffman

“If they attack first………..blast em!”