Posts Tagged ‘escape’

After suffering through seven endless games of the NBA finals, I have never been so glad to see a trophy handed out. I understand the idea behind the popularity of sports, the opportunity for people to transcend political differences and language barriers and, at times, the human condition itself. But it seems to me that sports has become far too like a religion. And I don’t see how people get so wrapped up in a silly game.

Yeah, I said it, a silly game. Football, hockey, bowling, golf, water polo – pick your sport – it’s all supposed to be for fun, for recreation and entertainment. Kobe Bryant is, in fact, not the patron saint of basketball (and God forbid there should ever be such a thing) but you wouldn’t know it from watching his flock. People do everything but bow to him and ask his blessing. Sports are taken way too seriously. They are, quite bluntly, an opiate. They are an escape, a diversion from everyday life in the same manner as movies and TV.

And yet when I watch sports, I am only reminded of the everyday. Rampant advertising aside, most players seem much more interested in their checks than their performance, more interested in their off-field frivolities than the nature of the game. Movies and television can at least bare incredible truths and tell great stories. Who hasn’t seen part of Casablanca or been touched by the evening news? But what great truths do sports reveal? That people with money can do as they please? That people are replaceable, can be sold to the highest bidder, or, once past their peak, are no longer of value? That’s not a very nice legacy. Granted, there were amazing feats in the early days of organized sports in the U.S., from men like Babe Ruth and Roy Campanella, Jim Thorpe and Bronko Nagurski. But those days are long gone. And what remains? A tired, cheap display built on fabulously overpaid athletes of only mediocre talent.

I can almost hear the cries of blasphemy at those words. But who among all our major sports will be remembered in seventy or eighty years? What new, worthy show of goodness, or even of human endurance, have they brought to the world? It’s not even fun to watch anymore. A game that was supposed to last a little more than an hour now takes three to five, to make room for commercials and time-outs and fouls and a lot of nancying about without any real purpose. Most of the games have no real consequence, and the players are as uninterested and uninvested as high school seniors with spring fever.

What fun is that? What good is that? And contrary to popular belief, being six-foot-three and 350 pounds doesn’t automatically make you a good linebacker. Being seven feet shouldn’t bring NBA agents busting down your door. Those things have nothing to do with talent or determination or heart. And that’s what sports are really supposed to be about. Until those things work their way back into sports, count me out.

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Long Way Home

I like to take the long way home.  During winter, I often take the detour for its gentle grades and almost non-existent traffic, especially when weather is bad.  The short way has put me in the ditch a few times and is something of a white-knuckle ride when it’s slick.  But in spring, summer, and fall I have little excuse, except that sometimes I just need those few miles to get my head on straight. 2007 wasn’t a great year, 2008 hasn’t exactly gone gangbusters so far, but that stretch of road makes it seem a whole lot better.  For one, there are great places to pull over and stroll, hike, sit, think…  

When I get sick of myself, my life, the world, I can go there and find some peace – no matter how badly I feel starting out – if only I stay long enough.  More often than not, I swing down that certain road on my way home from work.  After 12 hours of being surrounded by people I don’t really want to be surrounded by, doing things I don’t really want to do, those simple rocks become a refuge, give me room to breathe when the rest of the world seems intent on suffocating me where I stand.

So, yes, I take the long way home.  I drive miles out of my way to do not much of anything.  I escape, if only for twenty minutes, down a piece of quiet blacktop.  And I thank god for the long way home, because sometimes I feel like it’s the only thing I have in my life that’s real and good and capable of keeping me sane.

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