The number of news stories this week focusing on sports-related matters should be of concern to far more individuals than is the case.
Has “sports” become the No. 1 interest of the American public with other terribly important subjects, programs and individuals relegated to minor-league status?
High achievers in sports are elevated as national heroes, and their endorsement of most any kind of product is financially rewarding to the athlete and is supposed to boost the sales of the product being promoted. The activities, accomplishments and even the private lives of these athletes attract far more attention than the achievements of others in far more important careers, such as education, health care, scientific research, public service, etc.
Is it a case of the public being more interested in being entertained than in dealing with reality and far more serious matters?
Earlier this week, Lance Armstrong, for years a national and international hero and an inspiration to millions fighting cancer, admitted he used banned drugs to help him achieve amazing successes in bicycle racing.
Admirers and fans of one of the “stars” of this past collegiate football season, Notre Dame player Manti Te’o, are confused and puzzled by the disclosure that his supposed, high-profile romance and love for a young lady with cancer and the death of this woman in the middle of the football season, was a phony, fake concoction. This, too, became front-page news.
Tiger Woods, one of the world’s greatest golfers and perhaps still a hero to many, was page-one news not long ago for his extramarital affairs and subsequent divorce. Now, the Woods story is front page again as readers learn he would like to remarry his former wife and is offering $200 million if she will say “yes.” She has countered and says she would consider the offer if he would add a $350 million “anti-cheating” clause to the deal.
Another story this week reported public universities competing in NCAA Division I sports spend incredibly more to educate athletes than to educate nonathlete students. In the Big 12 Conference, Kansas University’s conference, the report shows per-student spending in 2010 was $13,988 for nonathletes and $131,286 for athletes. Does this bother anyone — the Kansas Board of Regents, alumni or parents of nonathlete students? How about the faculty?
A continuing big story at KU and in Lawrence is the huge, projected cost of a new multimillion-dollar track stadium, soccer field, softball field and recreation center featuring eight basketball courts planned for the northwest corner of the city. Added to this will be the cost of taking out the track at Memorial Stadium, lowering the field and adding seats, plus some unidentified renovations at Allen Fieldhouse.
Sports and athletic competition is good and a healthy exercise. There are many positives associated with competitive sports, but, unfortunately, “sports” is becoming more of a business, a multimillion-dollar business, where winning and being No. 1 is what’s important.
Sports bring enjoyment to millions of spectators and fans, as well as millions of participants in organized programs from grade school to college, professional teams and recreational sports for people of all ages.
A lot of people talk about trying to curb many of the excesses in the supposedly amateur college sports scene. University chancellors and presidents, for example, could blow the whistle on many excesses, but they, too, want their teams to win and generate alumni enthusiasm, so they turn their heads in order to field winning teams that sell tickets and please generous contributors.
Where will it end?
Some are sure to say newspapers, television, radio and magazines all are at least partially to blame for giving so much attention to sports. This is probably true. Look at the attention given earlier this week to the condition of KU’s star basketball player, Ben McLemore, when he fell to the floor in front of 16,300 fans plus millions of television viewers pounding the floor in supposed pain and perhaps lost for the rest of the season.
No matter where the finger of blame may be pointed, it seems priorities are out of balance. Sports and competitive athletics can be good and healthy but they also can be, and frequently are, costly and overemphasized.