Friday morning, the nation’s three major networks and three wire services, along with niche television networks and radio stations, all carried live reports of the Tiger Woods press statement.
Other programming and news reports were halted to report the very special Woods “press conference” for which he selected the individuals he wanted in the audience.
A large percentage of Americans know the world’s greatest golfer has acknowledged having extramarital affairs with a number of women. He is married and has two children, and until the revelation about his sexual appetite became known, he had been held up as an idol because of his personal conduct and behavior.
Once news of his indiscretions became known, Woods announced he was postponing a return to the golf tour. Shortly thereafter, it was announced he had entered a therapy program. Since then, there has been a parade of women announcing they too had affairs with Woods.
Now comes the Friday press conference and the massive news coverage the event triggered.
What does all this say about the public’s almost insatiable appetite for sports? Granted, the Woods story has the extra zing of sexual misbehavior, but sports alone seem to be attracting more and more of the public’s attention.
There is great concern here in Lawrence about how the public schools can meet current budget restraints, what schools may be closed or how many teachers may lose their jobs. The one action that really triggers strong public reaction is the suggestion to eliminate various competitive sports programs at the junior high and high school level.
News about the Winter Olympics is on the front page, not just on the sports pages. Whether it is how American skier Lindsey Vonn does in her downhill runs, U.S. ice skater Evan Lysacek’s quest for a gold medal, the death of relatively unknown Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili in a tragic luge accident or almost any other athletic competitor, it is big news.
The salaries of college coaches, news about what colleges high school all-stars will attend, pressure tactics used by athletic departments to force fans to pay extra dollars to qualify for better seats, the academic performance of college players to stay eligible, etc., all represent just a small slice of the attention given to sports.
Why shouldn’t a goal of making Kansas University one of the nation’s outstanding academic institutions stir as much interest and support as does trying to be one of the nation’s top football or basketball teams?
If it isn’t sports, then it’s the entertainment industry that seems to interest and titillate the public. Currently, Lady Gaga seems to capture the most attention, but the number and variety of magazines stacked near grocery store check-out counters offer ample evidence of the interest in knowing the inside information about those in show business.
There’s nothing wrong with this obsession with sports and show business, but it does raise the question of why there isn’t equal or even more interest in what is going on elsewhere in today’s world.
Granted, the horrible earthquake in Haiti captured attention and even held the public interest for many days, but this is an exception. What is going on in Washington, Topeka and Lawrence doesn’t come close to the excitement, attention, passion and reaction of a sports event like the Super Bowl, Olympics, NCAA playoffs, etc.
Have those who can’t get enough news about sports and show business tuned out of situations involving government actions in Washington or at the state and local levels? Do they give much attention to what may be happening to the free enterprise situation in America, the environment, greater government control of our lives and actions or the misbehavior of so many in public office?
Do they really not care or do they think they really don’t have a chance to make a difference? Do they think their voices and concerns don’t matter and they would rather spend their time and, in many cases, their money engaged in sports activities, either as an observer or as a participant?
It’s more fun and enjoyable to turn on the tube and watch a sports event or be a team member on a local sports team than to attend a school board meeting or a city or county commission session.
Will the level of interest in sports continue to grow, or will there come a time when the public finally says enough is enough? The salaries paid to players and coaches, the massive millions of dollars spent on tickets to sporting events, the coverage and position sports has in newspapers, television and radio and the billions of dollars spent on betting on sports events and other evidences of the interest in sports keep growing and growing.
Competitive sports offer many pluses, but are sports getting out of hand compared to the extremely serious, critical issues facing this country and its citizens?
Are sports serving as an ideal and easy way for growing numbers of citizens to close their eyes to the really important matters facing them in everyday life?