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 7 of 7)
Johnson argues that player loyalty doesn't matter – it's the devotion to the sport and its heroes that make the fan experience irresistible. "Not everybody has gotten on a stage and given a speech or performed in a play, but just about everybody tried out for a Little League team or ran a race or threw a football," he says. "We can connect to the activities these people are engaged in on a spiritual or visceral level."Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Glimpses of Spring: Baseball Preview
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But the question is, when does the visceral become a vice? David Barash, a psychology professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, says Americans obsess over sports the same way they do over reality TV shows. He says when a local team wins, people think "we" won. He says that's an illusion. It's not "we." It's "they" – the team – that won. People would be far better off, he argues, if they would spend less time and money on tickets and cable TV packages and more on experiencing life for themselves.
"They should go out and participate in sports, they should go for a walk, listen to music, talk to their kids, play with the dog ... anything that's real," he says.
More broadly, some critics argue our überemphasis on sports shows a skewed set of priorities. Murray Sperber, a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Education, notes that many public universities pay football coaches far more than school presidents.
John Gerdy echoes that point. "LeBron James is much more important and valued by society than some Nobel Prize winner or someone on the brink of a major discovery in cancer research," says the professor of sports administration at Ohio University in Athens. "And there are consequences for that, because we are telling our children that this is what we value."
Still, there might be a middle ground in all of this. Mark Beudert, director of opera studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, has three arts-obsessed children. The key, he says, isn't valuing a cellist over a shortstop. It's striving for excellence in anything we do.
"There has to be a view that people in both sports and the arts – in any area of achievement – have the same motivation to excel and interface with society in a certain way," he says. "The motivation is the same if you're playing football or playing the violin; the individual just chooses a different way to express that motivation."
Chris McCann's French professor would probably agree. So might Jennie Chan. And most likely Martha Coakley now knows that Curt Schilling is not a Yankees fan.