Presidents, War Heroes, and Astronauts

Ok, I am not a sports fan.   You see, in grammar school, I was a plump little kid and not very coordinated.  I was bad at sports and therefore I did not like sports very much. Back in the day, we were required to take physical education, or gym, where some jock of a teacher would try to whip us into shape and teach us good sportsmanship through team oriented games.  Of course, if my team lost and if it happened to be my fault; if I missed the critical basket, made the last out or missed the volleyball when it came my way, I would get chased home.

Winning was everything.  Forget about sportsmanship.

Now I am not totally against sports.  I happen to really enjoy walking, biking, table tennis and bowling.  Seeing a theme here?  These are individual activities.  Even if I were competing, only I had to deal with winning or losing. A few months ago I came in dead last in a table tennis tournament.  I did not chase myself home.

So Chicagoans are very proud of their sports teams, and basically there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I have seen it bring people together who might not do so otherwise.  When the team loses there is great moaning and gnashing of teeth.  When they win there is great celebration. And noise.  And drunkenness. And violence.  And looting.  Of course, there is a very strong argument that a true fan would never engage in such behavior; that some troublemakers look for any excuse.  And I believe that. But it still happens, and that is what broadcast on the national news.

Ticker tape parade for Apollo 17 astronauts
Ticker tape parade for Apollo 17 astronauts

Today, it took me a lot longer to get to work because of the crowds coming downtown for the celebration of the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup.  Chicagoans worship their sports teams.  I watched a few seconds of the parade on TV, the triumphant players cheered by the fans while tons of shredded paper rained down on them.  What we used to call a ticker tape parade.  There was a time when this was done for presidents, war heroes, and astronauts.  Now I am sure more people can name star hockey, football, basketball and baseball players than can name more than a couple of presidents, or any astronauts for that matter.

So what is the point?  When I was a kid, running for my life from my teammates, I was taught that sports was good for one’s physical health and character.  Professional sports seems only to be physically healthy for the players, and the fans, well, many of them are real characters.  It seems that children today are learning that they must win at all costs, that losing is catastrophic.  And that winning is a license for poor behavior. The problem is, if two teams play a game, only one team can win.  Someone always looses.  My elementary school gym teacher tried to teach us to be gracious winners and good losers, a lesson that always went through my mind as I was being chased through the playground.

I must say here that there is another reason that I am not a professional sports fan.  It’s because nearly everyone else is.  I am what you might call a contrarian.  But that’s a crumudge for another time.