In the mid 1940’s the fledgling TV industry began broadcasting Gillette’s Cavalcade of Sports, which had been a radio program originally. This was the real beginning of the glory days of sports broadcasting, lasting into the 1960’s. Those of my generation can still hear the “Look Sharp/Be Sharp” theme song in their heads.
Then from 1961 to 1998 ABC’s Wide World of Sports with John McKay seemed to dominate the sports TV airwaves. The catch phrase of the program intro was “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” You probably do not remember the clips shown for the thrill of victory, but we all remember skier Vinko Bogataj’s mishap on the ski jump that ran with the agony of defeat.
When cable TV became prevalent, these earlier types of programming disappeared and more flashy & updated broadcasting evolved like ESPN and Fox Sports produce today. Not only did the broadcasting world change, but so much more changed also in the sports world arena; some for good and some…not so.
I remember witnessing one of the earliest instant replays on live TV. That was truly an amazing thing to see in those days. Domed stadiums were another great milestone. I was privileged to be present at the first major league baseball game in the Houston Astrodome, which was the first of the domed stadiums. (Wow, am I telling my age, or what?
But as we have moved through the sports/entertainment progression over the years, some things strike me as not productive and positive. Today’s athletes have a totally different mindset than the earlier athletes that my generation endeared.
The sports figures of the past were bigger than life; heroes and role models for young kids, and played for the love of the game and team pride. People like Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Arnold Palmer, Nancy Lopez, Peggy Fleming and so many others were looked up to and put on a pedestal by fans for achievement in their individual sport.
As the games have changed and the salary of the pro athlete has escalated, so have the attitudes changed and the lack of character become the norm for our once adored competitors. The Almighty Dollar has replaced the priority of team loyalty and sportsmanship.
Free agency has produced an out-of-control upward spiral of millions of dollars to entice the ever seeking sports figure to take his talent to the highest bidder. I’m not necessarily faulting the athlete for that. Everyone has a desire to make more money. What I am saying is that the system encourages self-seeking and has little to do with character anymore.
The ridiculous antics of some players on the field are self-serving, braggadocios and anything but the displaying of professional character. I believe it was Tom Landry that said when a player makes a touchdown he shouldn’t act like it was his first time there. And Bill Belichick said words to the effect that “we pay you to perform as a football player, not a dancer.” Good advice and it is certainly easier to watch a player portray a touch of class than the “hooray for me” comic acts we see today. I mean, a routine tackle is emphasized with a 15 yard gallop down the field, a beating of the chest and king of the mountain roar. (By the way, I have yet to see that same player express the “I’m great” roar after he’s been knocked on his keister.)
Outbursts against other players such as we witnessed after the NFC Championship game, walking to the locker room prematurely without your team or taunting players or fans (and the list goes on…) are inexcusable and lessen our respect even more for these cry baby multi-millionaires. Maybe a good blue collar job would help them appreciate what a great situation they are in – being paid enormous salaries to play the game they always loved.
OK, trying to climb down now from my soapbox now. But, seriously, do we desire to see true professional entertainment on the fields and courts of sports or will we continue to settle for the over the top, arrogant, in-your-face displays? As long as we keep filling the stands and sitting in front of the boob tube, mesmerized by them, I suppose they will continue to degrade the once honorable sports they represent.
We, as a culture, seem to be overly addicted to entertainment and games. I hope and pray the American people will get a more meaningful life than glued to sports casts and statistics. There is so much more to life.
The wisest man that ever lived said it in the book of Ecclesiastes – This world will keep you chasing after the wind, never being satisfied. “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2)