Having said that, I’m here today to suggest some ideas for those who are inclined to such pronouncements. Specifically, some resolutions I think would make the sports world a far better place. Each of these notions begins with the same basic premise. These are games. Keep them fun. That is all.
At the pro and college level, could fans perhaps dial it back a notch? I know sports are a fairly simplistic ritual, and seeing things as either black or white makes it so much easier, but I’d love to see rivalries return to the reasonably respectful kind, as opposed to thinking that anyone who supports a team other than your own must be evil incarnate. This is fueled by the current Bayless-ization of sports media, where commentators try and make their name through increasingly ridiculous “hot takes”. My friend, Chad Finn of the Boston Globe, suggested last week that reasonableness has lost the ratings battle in that city, where polarizing figures like Michael Felger and Kirk Minihane make outlandish statements which turn into angry mock debates and spin into viral click bait. Fans often claim they don’t like the “embrace debate” mentality, but the numbers in Boston and nationally tell a different story.
This has even trickled down to local radio, where guys no one outside their fantasy league has ever heard of feel compelled to share their own sizzling hot views of what’s wrong with the hometown team. Often these opinions are merely watered-down versions of what the boys in Boston have spewed, which is especially foolhardy, since we all have access to the same information. If your “stat of the day” or you “smackdown of the week” is just a poorly-delivered rehash of what somebody in the big city wrote, maybe you ought to do a little research of your own. Or even better, why not stop the arguing? How about having intelligent discussions? Haven’t we seen enough exaggerations, lies, and name-calling from the world of political talk without bringing that approach to the games we watch, supposedly as a diversion from reality?
Finally, on the most local level, remember where you are. As a parent, if you’re watching your children play, be it a high school game or one of their 137 travel soccer games, keep in mind that the odds are that no one on that field is going to the Olympics, bound for the pros or even to be a scholarship athlete in college. The games are not yours. They are for your kids, and what most of them really want is to have a good time with their friends. They want to hear you cheer, but most don’t want to have you yell out their name and, when the whistle blows, they’d appreciate a simple “good game” and don’t need you to go home and break down the video of their performance.
Can we all try to do this? It’s easier than giving up ice cream and more economical than getting a gym membership that you won’t use past Valentine’s Day. Plus, it might just make you a little less stressed at the end of what may turn out to be a very stressful 2017.