Let’s see, the NFL is in full swing, college football has had their share of dramatic games, Tiger Woods is the lead story every time he tees it up, the baseball races are close, hockey camps are opening, basketball coaches are making news, the US Open showed the future of tennis and, oh yeah, the Olympics start this week. Do you think there’s enough going on?
This might be my favorite time of the year. Some people don’t like the overlap but I think it’s great. In baseball clubhouses all over the country, the TV sets on Sunday are tuned to football. One of the first questions asked after things calm down in a winning NFL locker room is “Did Tiger win today?”
Sports are everywhere. Popping out of the sports section onto the front page. Moving into the news block of the evening news, and not just during the crime report. There are more cable sports stations, more sports talk radio stations. I’m sure some sociologist would say it’s got something to do with the “baby boomers” growing up. Or having grandchildren. Or slowing down. Or sitting in their recliners.
Whatever the reason, people are interested. They’re tracking the ups and downs of teams and players, the victories and their accomplishments. Some are living vicariously, others are being inspired to go do something themselves. Tiger Woods has brought new players to golf, but you don’t think he’s made every weekend hacker try to be a better player?
Computers are buzzing with fantasy football picks and trash talk. People are lamenting the failures of the home team, and cheering their successes. The information age has brought all kinds of information about sports right to everybody’s doorstep.
Where does corporate America go to find motivational speakers for their meetings? The sports world. What metaphors do political candidates use constantly? Ones from sports. It’s becoming the universal communications tool. A way to impart a moral and raise morale. For all of the things pointed out constantly that are wrong with sports, the competition factor is what makes the world go ‘round.
Could there be civility breaking out in sports? Woods takes his hat off at the end of a round to shake hands with a competitor. Bobby Bowden and George O’Leary spend a minute after a hard fought game in the middle of the field talking about the competition like old friends. Pete Sampras says Marat Safin can be the greatest player in the world after running the former champion off the court in straight sets. I’m not saying that overnight things are now wonderful. And Pollyanna hasn’t moved in next door. But it seems some of the players are beginning to understand the tolerance level of the fans and the corporations who pay the bills.
People don’t want to see temper tantrums. They don’t want to see felonious acts committed on the field and washed away as competition. They want to see effort. They want to see Todd Martin laying it all out in a five-set match at the US Open. They want to see Tiger try that 6-iron out of the fairway bunker over water going for the win. That’s what people want, and for the first time in a while, they’re getting a healthy dose of it.
But then again, the NBA hasn’t started yet.