Saturday, February 07, 2004

3 Notes as My Blood Pressure Returns to Normal

Having just returned from Stanford's 80-77 win over rival Arizona, a college basketball game for the ages, I've got a few observations to share.

1) I really wish that Americans didn't feel obligated to trot out the national anthem before every sporting event. Why must each sporting event be an endorsement of national patriotism?

Although it's hearsay, I understand that other countries don't have this pregame musical obligation. I seem to recall an NPR piece saying that the British only play their national tune before national matches.

2) As partisan as team sports are -- zero-sum games where one tribe's victory is nothing more than another tribe's defeat -- this particular game reinforced, first-hand, those qualities that give spectator sports a transcendent air.

Stanford scored 7 points in the final 45 seconds of the game, achieving an improbable victory on a last-second shot from a Rudy-esque player, Nick Robinson.

Besides sports, what else in life is cause to leap in the air, exultant, embracing strangers?

For more along this line, I highly recommend Nick Hornby's ode to spectator sports and the London Arsenal, Fever Pitch. Hornby reminds us that it's perfectly all right to be partisan and parochial, as the victories and defeats of sport are either sweeter or more bitter than those we know in our pale, ordinary lives.

3) Cloaked in the half-anonymity of the internet, crazy people seem to stake out territory. Though online stock message boards may ultimately provide more fertile ground for encouraging the mostly mad, ESPN's message boards seem largely populated with nitwits who long for their radically biased rants to live online in print.

For example, enjoy these veritable pleas for help (bearing in mind that Stanford barely won the hard-fought game).

The flip-side of spectator team sports is that they provide a marvelous outlet for those in society who are locked in a completely partisan view. In the eyes of these quasi-troglodytes, proximity overcomes partiality -- it's their team or else.

They are quite unable to lend a less-biased eye on the proceedings of their lives and they try hard to ruin spectator sports for those of us who don't share their vitriol.

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