Sports in the US: Year-round madness
From the bracketology of March Madness to ESPN Everything, sports has become one of the most pervasive forces in American culture. Is it a great unifying force or a sign of misplaced priorities?
(Page 2 of 7)
In Pictures Glimpses of Spring: Baseball Preview
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Even more broadly, it is one of the few phenomena that can transcend race and class divisions, becoming what Bill Littlefield, who hosts a sports show on National Public Radio, calls a "marvelously easy social lubricant." "It's much easier to talk about that than subjects that require actual knowledge, such as the economy or healthcare packages or whether or not we should be invading more countries," he says. "It's sort of ... a feeling of belonging that is easy to get, easy to achieve."
Sports, in another words, may be the closest thing Americans have to a national hearth. "Sports is one of the most overt and direct expressions of community identity that we have in our society," says Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.
But has our love affair with sports gone too far? Something certainly is out of whack in a culture when marriages can crumble over obsessive sports worship; when friendships fracture over a clipping call; when hours of productivity are lost to sitting in front of a TV or computer screen, watching games, reading jock blogs, or lingering over online sports sites.
Last fall, an average 19.4 million armchair quarterbacks settled in weekly to watch NFL "Sunday Night Football." An estimated 58.3 million Americans will fill out a NCAA Tournament bracket this year, including our hoopster president, Barack Obama.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fanatic – from the Latin fanaticus – as frenzied, marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense, uncritical devotion. Another definition might be when too many people want their kids to become a third baseman instead of a molecular biologist, when a society talks about Tiger Woods's return to the Masters more than the Afghan war, when the NFL draft creates as much buzz as draft legislation on financial reform (who, honestly, had even heard of Mel Kiper Jr. just a few years ago?).
In short: Just how sports-obsessed have we become?
It's the economy, sports fans
When America went through its last calamitous economic decline, in the 1930s, baseball and week-long dance marathons helped provide some diversion. With the current economy in the worst shape since the Great Depression, distraction is once again in order.
Ms. Chan is in need of distraction. She has lived with her parents in Washington, D.C., since leaving college. She has applied for 131 jobs in the past year, but has yet to receive an offer better than the one from the Maryland J. Crew store where she works part time.