Originally published in SLAM 6
The 6th Man: Recently, I came across an article in an unnamed news periodical entitled “Why Sports Don’t Matter Anymore”. The writer, a published author, made a tidy case about sports’ lessening relevance in today’s society, supporting his theory with phrases like “irrevocably destabilized” and “symbolic reconstitution”.
Needless to say, it made my head throb.
Maybe sports doesn’t matter to those journalists who could over-intellectualize a knock-knock joke, but to the rest of us in the country, whose weekends are filled with faded t-shirts and scuffed kicks; parks, playgrounds and pizza afterward, they mean a lot. To some people, sports mean more than a lot; they mean everything.
To equate sports and professional sports (as the article did, and countless others have) is over-simplification anyway. The true essence of hoops, for example, is not Shaq or Charles Barkley (pg. 38) or-I can’t believe I’m actually saying this-even Michael Jordan (pg. 42). It’s Sybil Smith (who you’ll read about in Hype) and Mike Frensley (likewise), two athletes who’ll likely never make a dime professionally from a skill they spend countless hours honing. It’s the UCONN women’s team (pg. 58) playing the game as harmoniously as the 50’s-era Celtics. It’s Jim Valvano’s ’82 Wolfpack team (pg. 106) and Rollie Massimino’s ’85 Villanova squad, both underdogs and both champions. It’s a friend’s wheelchair basketball game.
Sports is an outdoor court in Chicago, where a bunch of strangers-white, brown, red, yellow and blue-choose up sides for a grueling run where the winners gain nothing more than ‘next’.
That’s what it is to me anyway. And if that doesn’t matter anymore, people, than nothing does. Peace.