Thursday, March 03, 2005

Sports aren't so bad

By Steven Carse

The Superbowl has passed, football’s national signing day is over, basketball is in full swing and baseball’s spring training is about to begin.

Too much? Has America’s obsession with sports gotten out of control?

Are we making heroes out of people simply because they can run fast, jump high or throw a football?

Have we Americans – sports journalists included – distorted what life is all about?

As a journalism student who hopes to become a sports writer, my curiosity was sparked when the National Hockey League cancelled its season. Life did not come to a standstill. Nothing changed.

Are sports really that important?

You would think so if you turned on ESPN or read sports pages, as I do for hours every day. Veteran sportscasters talk seriously about high school students, some only sophomores or juniors in high school, and their future on the field or the court. Newspapers interview teenagers thought to be the next Herschel Walker or Lebron James.

Are sports, my passion for 21 years, just trivial games after all?

As an aspiring sports journalist am I mapping a future of reporting on steroid abuse and collegiate sports corruption? Is that a worthy career path?

Those thoughts caused me to think back to my days at Shiloh High School in Snellville and “walk” forward, recalling the young athletes I knew and the games we played.

Bottom line: I think organized sports in America offer more than they take away from the experience of growing up and fitting into a high school or university environment.

Yes, some athletes ignore the classroom and everything else in their lives but their sport. And, yes that can lead to massive failures as human beings in later life.

But I know that sports motivate many people to stay in school and keep their grades up so they can stay eligible.

I saw this first hand, as teammates who could care less about algebra hit the books so they could play in front of their classmates. Sports teach the value of hard work and discipline, two concepts that do not come naturally to teenagers.

Entering high school, a 14-year-old lanky freshman, I was convinced to run cross country by my soccer coach. Running, an activity I despise, became an important part of my life. I wanted to be a motivation to my teammates – as they were to me – improve myself and please my coach.

In four years, I pushed myself further than I could ever have imagined. The feeling I got when I crossed the finish line knowing I could have gone no harder, was something I never will forget. Sometimes I collapsed and threw up crossing the finish line. Yet, those were the races I cherish most. I knew I had exerted myself until I truly and nothing else to give – and that was an achievement I have seen many other teenagers realize.

Sports also create togetherness, an opportunity for an entire school – book worms as well as athletes – to cheer.

Sports teach teamwork and show first hand that success is bigger than any one person.

Sports are a stage for all the ideals held most high in this country to come together and be displayed.

The chances for any athlete to make it to the professional level is incredibly slim, but even those who fail to reach that goal do not lose. By simply going along for the ride athletes, talented or not, are better for it and so are we as a community.

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