Saturday, June 20, 2009

What Is It About Sports?

The other day watching the tee-off of the golf tournament happening at Bethpage (is there both a tennis and a golf tournament each called the U.S. Open?) the announcer said, when Phil Mickelson came on screen, "This is going to be an emotional tournament for Phil because his wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer".

And I thought to myself: Really? - the guy is golfing. Admittedly it's a competition and a lot of people are watching him and it's his job (weird job - hit a little ball with a club into a small hole about 500 yards way in as few shots as you can) and also no doubt when one's wife is ill it can be emotional but somehow the notion that there is some sort of heroic, stoic, emotional quality deserving of comment in the instance of a millionaire golfer is off-putting to me.

Compare that to your average working guy, say a guy who works in the post office or maybe he is a middle aged waiter at an Appleby's Resturant. Maybe his wife is sick too, only in his case there are few doctors rushing to treat this celebrity postal worker. The medical world frightens and intimidates him but he has no doctor friends he can call for counsel. Maybe he would like to take some time off to be with his wife but cannot afford it. Maybe he is struggling to make ends meet and to pay for his kids to go to college. Maybe he hates his job and is really bored working in the post office. Or, if he works at Appelby's, is really hassled by the constantly complaining customers ("Eat your hamburger and shut up - this ain't fuckin Lutece."). There are a million things I can imagine that would seem to qualify this post office worker for sympathy and understanding - but no one comments as he heads off in the rain to work that this is an emotional time for him. 

Turning back to Mickelson -  I think Mickelson, is playing a game that he is good at, is famous for and is highly (if not insanely) compensated for. His wife is sick - he has all the resources anyone could possibly hope for to deal with his wife's unfortunate illness. If I was his friend, I'd feel for him just as I would for the post office worker if he was my friend.

Maybe it's just me but this kind of lionizing of sports figures seems a little like anthropomorphizing animals. The Lion King is great - but he is a cartoon - these are human beings we are talking about and somehow the notion of elevating and focusing on the emotional states of celebrity (sports or otherwise) when it comes to the very real things that everyday people also face with the same degree (or higher) of selflessness seems banal.  I would not be surprised to learn that Mickelson agrees with me.

PS. I see that today's NY Times cover story is about the tennis player, Nadal. I think I will read it but I will have my bullshit radar turned way up. 

1 comment:

  1. Tiger Woods is ready for the 2009 US Open, but is the weather? It's pouring rain at Bethpage Black, the American golf course that Tiger Woods is defending his remarkable 2008 US Open win on. Woods set out on his US ... If you want to follow Tiger Woods on the US Open 2009 leaderboard you can visit Sports Illustrated.
    You can watch US Open Golf Championship 2009 here:us open golf tv schedule-online video



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