Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Carnival of Sports

Not that long ago, St. Louis was named the top sports city in the nation. St. Louisans are known for their enthusiastic support of its sports teams, especially when it comes to the baseball Cardinals. Many other sports have thrived in the region, generating significant economic activity for the city and surrounding areas. Log onto the St. Louis Sports Commission's website and you will see just how supportive St. Louis is, and has been, of athletics, from the 1904 Olympics to the 2009 NCAA Women's Final Four. Golf and tennis, respectively, owe major cups – the Walker and the Davis – to the city, as both were established by St. Louisans. Even in the era of the football Cardinals, with their dismal play and apathetic ownership, fans showed their support in droves year after year. A majority were even saddened when they left the city for the Arizona desert. Sports are a tradition in this city, and will always be a part of its future.

Remember, though, when you used to go to sporting events to see live action, and athletes were worshipped more than the gods themselves? Remember when your parent, or maybe even your grandparent, taught you how to score runs, hits and errors on the scorecard? There was a time when people went to the amusement park to be amused and the sports arena to watch . . . well, sports. Nowadays, the two are seemingly indistinguishable from each other, and its occurring at an exponential rate. Sadly, it has taken away the amusement of the original intent of the venue – the sporting event itself.

Lockouts and scandals have made it so, forcing owners to do anything to fill arenas. Attractions/distractions are thrown at fans as they make their way along the trail to their grazing spot, only to be hounded further by purveyors of consumptive consumerism. All of this to satisfy the adult-child that willingly opens the pocketbook – if only to quiet the real child that needs yet another "toy" to break or collect dust. Meanwhile, the apparent poverty-stricken manor lords gouge the ordinary fan at the ticket booth and vending to compensate for their "losses," while playing hardball with their respective city halls to garner the best deal for a new stadium in order to compete with larger markets.

The self-serving athletes we are expected to hold in esteem in spite of their mediocre play and indignant attitude make the problem no better. Are we as spectators supposed to feel sorry for multi-million dollar athletes who cry foul over salaries that offer only three million a year and not five million – not including a signing bonus – when there are average people who cannot afford a meal, health insurance or housing? Granted, these "warriors of the gridiron" can do more with a bat, ball, or puck than the average person, but where does it end? When Johnny-come-lately athletes command a trade or higher salary without the backing of a justifiable performance, it makes one ponder the objective of sports – the pursuit of selfless victory or self-indulgent promotion?

©2007 Steve Sagarra

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