It's time to slow the spread of the sports fandemic

It's time to slow the spread of the sports fandemic

I’ve been told that when it comes to taking politics out of sports, it’s too late, baby.

“The cows are already out of the barn on that one,” a colleague said forlornly the other day. “Just look at everything that’s going on now. And it’s been going on for a long time.”

Maybe he’s right, but think about it. Wouldn’t it be awesome to watch a sporting event the old-fashioned way for a change, to focus on and relish such things as virtuoso athleticism, a breakthrough coaching decision, or – drop the mic – an uncommon display of sportsmanship?

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to go back to the era when a sports star didn’t feel the need to jump into a frying pan of sizzling social issues? When the play-by-play experts didn’t have to play second fiddle to the expert analysts? When a post-game interview didn’t stir up a helluva hullabaloo sure to dominate every SportsCenter update?

We all say we need sports as that one diversion that takes us away from the bleak daily grind, that sports can provide the great getaway from the coronavirus, the Red states/Blue states darkness, the whine of the Deep State pestilence.

Yet what do we have? A rapidly spreading fandemic, during which, we’re consumed by such ogres as callous mascot names, team logos that don’t offend, and nooses that double as “pull ropes.”

I admit that in years past, I’ve been a bit two-faced about all this, never giving two hoots about what a movie star or guitar-plucking musical artist has to say about international affairs or social injustices. For the most part, my observation has been that they exist in glitzy circles of privilege and universes devoid of reality. I’ve seen far too many Oscar Nights ruined. Of course, one must recognize their right to opine and to push agendas about which they appear to be compassionate.

On the other hand, I’ve mistakenly been more prone to believe that sports celebrities are somehow different. For whatever reason, I’ve been more willing to listen to, and to try to learn from, the viewpoints they expound. Not that their platforms are any more noble than their silver-screen or concert-hall counterparts, I’ve been guilty of allowing them — unfairly — a longer leash than those from the world of entertainment.

But no more. If we’re going to ask athletes, professional or otherwise, to entertain us, there can be no double standard.

When the trio of Bill Rasmussen,Scott Rasmussen and Ed Eganlaunched ESPN at 7 p.m. on Sept. 7, 1979, the opening sales pitch was that an around-the-clock Entertainment and Sports Programming Network not only could adequately enhance the cable television landscape, but could endure. In lobbying for an audience, the founders sold us on a new source of viewing pleasure.

And that’s the rub. We need to slow the spread, to take politics out of sports because of late, it’s been sucking all the pleasure (dare I say fun?) out of those of us who love sports in the purest, most genuine form.

Now is the time to put those wayward cows back in the barn.

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