As a reflection of our society, and from the perspective of Collective Evolution, the modern state of sports, most of which has become “professional”–is bizarre and unfortunate.
Watching ten year olds on ESPN as they face the pressures of a national audience during the Little League World Series is enough to make any sane person cringe. Winners are hailed as “heroes,” interviewed by sportscasters as though they were adults, while the poor boy that strikes out or drops a fly ball is scarred for life by his failure.
Where is play? Where is sportsmanship? The whole sports world is run by jocks and people who take themselves way too seriously. These are meant to be games, but now they’ve undoubtedly become a business.
The 24 hour sports stations and television in general have ruined the original intention of sport. The original Olympics in ancient Greece were a spiritual competition among men and women who respected one another and the games themselves. The notion of cheating in a competition to honor the Gods would probably never have occurred to them.
As television began to dominate professional sports like football, basketball and baseball, the Olympics also changed forever. While it is true that they were first perverted when they began being seen as representing nation states like Nazi Germany or Communist Russia, and the competition got very tense and heated, it was, ironically, 1984, when the Olympics were ruined for good. Peter Ueberroth, a Los Angeles businessman who ran the Olympics in L.A., introduced the concept of commercialism on a massive scale, selling sponsorships to pay for the event.
“Under [Peter] Ueberroth’s leadership and management, the first privately financed Olympic Games resulted in a surplus of nearly $250 million. This was subsequently used to support youth and sports activities throughout the United States. Ueberroth created a committee of over 150 members (mostly business people and entrepreneurs) to generate ideas, opportunities and solve problems.
His aggressive recruiting of sponsors for the 1984 Olympics is credited as the genesis for the current Olympic sponsorship program. Due to recruiting competitors between the Los Angeles Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), after 1984 all Olympics in the US had their local organizing committees enter into recruitment agreements with the USOC to jointly recruit sponsors and share revenues.”
But what this really began was the corporate takeover of professional sports, so that now even college football stadiums have sold their “naming rights” to corporations, and space on their uniforms to sponsors.
Along these lines, now comes the desire to unionize college “athletes” – who have been subsidizing the NCAA and the big business of collegiate sports for decades. If you’ve ever read Tom Wolfe’s terrific “I Am Charlotte Simmons?” you know what a joke big time college sports have become and sure, why not pay the athletes? They are professionals.
But perhaps most pernicious are two complementary aspects of the new sports landscape:
The constant over analyzing of what already happened, and worse, predicting what may happen by the jock-experts; and the obnoxious play-by-play “commentary” over a televised event adding little value in most cases, and just telling the viewer what he or she just saw.
What this inane chatter really does is reduce any sense of beauty or inner appreciation of what is transpiring, overlaying the visual with a hypnotic track that promotes beer, sex and violence -amongst many others.
Of course a great deal of modern sports is also about gambling, and the results of many big time events are almost certainly as fixed as professional wrestling. Tim Donaghy was a former NBA official who “blew the whistle” on fellow refs, confirming in a book log suppressed by the NBA that the referees controlled games by calling fouls on players they didn’t like, or on teams that they wanted to lose (or were told to “help” lose).
Anyone who has watched sports playoffs objectively has seen this first hand. In pro football the pass interference penalty is so obviously used to control outcomes that it is laughable.
As ridiculous as “flopping” is in the NBA, or college basketball, it is now an accepted practice which involves fooling the officials. Compare this to a tennis player who calls a close shot good for his opponent because he saw it hit the line.
And now that instant replay has supposedly improved officiating — all that has happened is the removal of the human element — extending the games and many key calls are still incorrect. One must wonder why.
Still the athletic abilities and achievements are hard not to appreciate at the professional level, but it is hard to watch what the obsession with winning and commercialism has done to our youth.
Instead of teaching young people to master their inner demons and compete fairly and honorably, the sports world is populated by athletes who now pride themselves on “getting away with” bad behavior –whether it is knowing that a ball bounced twice in tennis, that a pitch hit the batter in baseball, or that the ball hit the rim in basketball.
Have you ever seen a pro basketball player NOT complain about a foul call?
The true value of sport, as represented by ancient games and also eastern thought, was briefly popularized in “zen” works devoted to tennis and golf.
In his book, Inner Tennis, Playing the Game, by Tim Gallwey, Gallwey wrote, “Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game.” The former is played against opponents, and is filled with lots of contradictory advice; the latter is played not against, but within the mind of the player, and its principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety.
Of course within this framework, the notion of cheating is non-existent and abhorrent because ultimately you are cheating yourself—denying yourself the ability to master your own mind and find the flow that makes sports so exhilarating.
In my own case I have found sessions where I play tennis and just “rally” –timing and zinging the ball with a strong partner, far more satisfying than “winning the last point” in a match with lots of conflict, controversy and dull points.
I also remember watching surfers on the north shore of Oahu pitting their athletic skills against immense waves, for the sheer joy of it, and then waiting tables at the hotel where I worked. Now they are competing in professional events, for sponsorships, and a competitive scoring system has been imposed on what might be the most beautiful natural sport on earth.
I think that many of us, even those who still enjoy watching pro sports on TV, know that the essence of competition and sports has been badly corrupted. Unfortunately it is part and parcel of the overall domination of modern life by false material values and corporate interests—but hopefully on the grass fields that bloom in the Spring the true values of sportsmanship and the pure joy of real “play” can live in the pickup games of young boys and girls.
And perhaps they won’t try to emulate the barbaric jocks that are glorified in television, but simply enjoy the sun on their skin, the wind in their hair, and great feeling of hitting a ball, running full speed and participating on a team.