Here is a fascinating panel discussion from last year that I watched late last night (too late — my poor sleep schedule). Hosted by the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, this discussion encompasses all sports and the culture that surrounds athletic competition in general. From children’s organized sports on up through the pros, these folks explore the problems of the idea of winning at all costs.
Clearly, we see, there are some issues when it comes to ethics in the world of sports. When the majority of athletes self-report that they would be willing to take a pill to become Olympic-caliber athletes (with the caveat that they’d die in five years), we realize that our priorities are wholly out of whack. When cheating does take place, nobody in sports wants to be a snitch, and the idea that “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” permeates the atmosphere. How do the higher ups of an organization combat this attitude?
This discussion is long, but if you have the time to watch even a little bit of it, it is certainly worthwhile.
This is an interesting infographic. A lot of these bits of trivia I already knew, though some were new to me. I do question the bit about Forbes Field — there seems to be a lot of debate over what actually qualifies for the title of “first field” in America. First stadium might have been more accurate phrasing, though that’s probably debatable, too.
When I heard about the passing of Yordano Ventura, at first I wasn’t sure the headline I saw was accurate or true. A quick Google search proved that it was, and my emotions ran from disbelief to shock, then quickly to sadness. Obviously, I didn’t know Ventura personally, never met him in person, and had he opted to do something with his life other than play baseball, would likely never have heard of him. Even knowing all this, upon reading the news of his death, I couldn’t help but feel a genuine sense of loss. After all, I had watched this young man pitch through some of the best seasons I’ve had the privilege to watch as a Royals fan. In spite of his temper (or maybe because of it), he was a fan favorite in Kansas City, and many of his fans continue to grieve as the week goes on.
It’s one of those events that gets me thinking about baseball, about sports in general, and its role in our world. When the Chicago Cubs visited the White House last week, Barack Obama commented, “Throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together even when the country is divided.” The fact that baseball’s popularity grew exponentially following the American Civil War is a testament to this. During both World War I and World War II, baseball became a form of entertainment that provided Americans a much-needed escape from the realities of being a nation at war. Jackie Robinson’s journey into the history books shows that baseball can even impact the social climate of our country.
For me, personally, the world of sports continues to provide a sense of balance and purpose to my day-to-day life. I am a notoriously active person, which helps to offset the forty-plus hours a week I spend sitting at a desk at work. I love the competition of running road races, the challenge of tackling obstacle course races, and the feeling of accomplishment when I have become strong enough to need to go out and buy a new set of dumbbells. In the past, I’ve slid into bases, played tackle football in the backyard with my brothers, and had my ass kicked in martial arts studios. The benefits to my physical and mental health are too numerous to list here (though that might be a worthwhile topic for a future post? We’ll see…). Then, when the workday is done and the chores are finished and the day’s workout is completed, there’s the escape of turning on a Royals game or a Packers game and getting lost in watching others compete while I unwind.
For kids and adults alike, there are organized recreational teams to encourage a sense of community as well as to promote our overall well-being. And, again, we also find community in the teams we root for (or against), and in the time we can spend in watching those teams and players compete. We become so engrossed with these games that we become emotionally involved in them. We sometimes become obsessed. We track our favorite players, we feel anxiety or elation over the performances of our teams, we buy their jerseys and wear caps bearing their logos and we do so with pride. Hell, the Super Bowl has become such a big deal that we throw house parties, complete with booze and a junk food feast, sometimes just so we can watch the commercials.
The death of Yordano Ventura revealed the incredible sense of community among Royals fans. The way my Facebook feed exploded with shock and grief revealed just how profound an impact this one man playing for this one team really had. The tributes in memory of Ventura made at Kauffman Stadium are overflowing onto the parking lot. Baseball, and sports in general, they mean something to us, and they impact us on a deeper level than we oftentimes fail to acknowledge. In a time of tremendous political and social turmoil in our country, maybe it is time for sports, whether it is baseball or football or hockey or whatever, to exercise its power of healing yet again.
Spending $800 to start, former baseball player Albert Spalding founded a sporting goods company on February 3, 1866. Spalding became the manufacturer of the first official baseball, and would also become the first manufacturer of the official tennis ball, basketball, golf ball, and football.
Sports do not build character. They reveal it.
~Heywood Hale Broun
Having played Little League Baseball myself, I am especially supportive of letting girls play, not only baseball, but all sports in general. There are some phenomenal women athletes in the world. In December 1974, Title IX of the 1972 Education Act was signed, granting equal opportunity in sports for girls as well as boys, and thus allowing more of them to shine through. This poem, written by J. Patrick Lewis, was published in A Burst of Firsts: Doers, Shakers, and Record Breakers (The Dial Press, 2001).
The year was 1974
When Little Leaguers learned the score.
President Ford took out his pen,
And signed a law that said from then
On women too would have the chance
To wear the stripes and wear the pants.
Now what you hear, as flags unfurl,
Is “Atta boy!” and “Atta girl!”
Statistics are like bikinis. They show a lot, but never everything.