Be a good sport in the recession

    In these difficult economic times, everyone looks around for things to cut back and sees the value in the things they have. So that brings up a few questions: “Why are sports so special?” “Why are they necessary?” and “Why should I care?”

    No, these are not the most important questions for a nation in a recession, facing a humanitarian crisis in Haiti and dealing with global warming, but sports do still serve a vital purpose, even in troubling times.

    The first answer to those questions comes right from Rick James’ ring: UNITY. There is nothing in the world that brings people together from all over the country, without causing world or civil war (take that, religion) and makes them scream and shout, except sports.

    Sports have the ability to unify entire countries (the Olympics) and races (Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier) like no other entity.

    High-fiving people you’ve never met, trash-talking the guy who’s rooting for the other team to the point where your lungs explode and screaming at the performers doesn’t happen at show choir recitals. Yeah, sports and recitals may include “dancing” and some dialogue between “teammates,” but people are not downing hot dogs and waving foam fingers that say “Go Freshman Fifteen!”

    Sports bring together fellow enthusiasts, fans and players, the former athletes who gave up their dreams to play in the big leagues and everyone else in the stadium.

    The second answer is “all about the Benjamins, baby.” Sports are a gold mine, from tickets to advertising to merchandise.

    The unity creates a fan base and those fans will do everything for their team, including emptying their wallets so their Nashville Predators flag is two inches bigger than that of their neighbors.

    If sports were to stop now, there would be so many companies going bankrupt that Nike would change its slogan to “Just Forget It.” Las Vegas would close half the strip, since sports gambling is one of the biggest sources of income.

    Half of the commercials on TV, the radio and the Internet involve sports or athletes in some way. Without sports, Peyton Manning would not be telling me why Sony TVs are so much better than other brands and Tiger Woods can’t show that Accent, AT&T, Tag Heuer and Nike help him drive his Escala golf ball further. Which brings me to my next point, which is…

    Jobs. Sports create so many jobs because they are a significant industry. The athletes make up just a small percentage; don’t forget the cheerleaders, general managers, recreation park owners and zamboni drivers who depend on sports for their paycheck.

    And imagine if athletes didn’t have sports, what would they do? Shaq as a pawnshop owner (“No one barters with the Shaq-tus”)? Barry Bonds as a D.A.R.E. Officer (“Now kids, don’t do drugs, because if you do, you will break too many records and arouse suspicion!”)? Bob Knight as a real estate agent (“I’m gonna throw chairs at you til you sign the lease.”)?

    Most of the people involved with sports will tell you they are doing what they love, and to take that away from them is a crime punishable by feathering. If they put in the work and effort to become involved in sports, their dreams should be honored.

    Lastly, sports make wishes come true. Little kids look up to athletes and they dream of making the big time. It encourages people in underprivileged situations to keep working hard in order to become their idol.

    Yes, there are role models in politics — despite the decreasing amount as of late — and business, but no kid goes to school with a suit on for President Obama. They wear the Michael Jordan #23, or the Tennessee Titans hat, or the Cubs t-shirt that says, “Shove it up your Pujols!”

    People want to be a part of sports from an early age, and sports inspire kids to get in shape and try to fulfill their dreams.

    Yes, there are problems with sports — drug scandals, fan violence and lying to Congress, just to name a few — but baseball is America’s pastime, not the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, and people need entertainment and escapism in their lives.

    Sports are now a tradition, a necessity and a privilege enjoyed by the entire world, and nothing can take their place.


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