Have Professional Sports Become Too Big an Influence in Our Society?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-It seems that we are forever debating whether this thing or that thing has “too much influence” on our lives or the lives of our children. This is a passive-aggressive way of life that leaves us limp noodles, ready to be blown whatever way pop culture and prevailing wisdom blows us.

Here’s a nifty idea: Evaluate the influences on your life. If there is one you don’t like, then GET RID OF IT. Yes, it’s possible! If someone you know or something you read or some other thing is a drag on your psyche, make it gone posthaste. You’ll be healthier for it.

Yes, sports are just about everywhere. With the NFL playing on three (soon to be four) days a week, hockey and basketball in season and the ever-present talk of Olympic teams and some weird European sport called soccer, much of the news cycle is devoted to grown men and women chasing various sorts of balls, moving very fast or engaging in physical combat with each other for money.

Our kids are drawn to these goings-on, since the participants on the professional level seem to have unlimited funds and only work a few days a week. A great cure for this is to take your kids to a minor league baseball game. Show them players using off-the-rack equipment, traveling by bus and often sleeping in the homes of team supporters. Talk to the players and let your kids hear about the real “road to success” in sports.

And if that doesn’t cure, or at least ameliorate, your kid’s sports fever, then go with it! If junior wants to be a football player, then get out in the yard and toss the pigskin around. Get a family or neighborhood football game together. You’ll get some exercise, he’ll get some experience and neither of you will watch a second of televised sports in the process.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-October is a special month in the world of sports. The Major League Baseball Playoffs begin. The National Football League season is well under way. The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association seasons are just getting started. Even the Women’s National Basketball Association is holding their league championships. Heady times for sports fans.

It seems that this country has evolved to the point where sports is possibly one of the key drivers of American culture. Fans collect souvenirs, jerseys, caps, pennants, and all sorts of other paraphernalia. They attend games in person, often paying thousands of dollars (or much more for prime seats) for tickets over the course of a season. Fantasy leagues for nearly every professional sport have popped up around the country. Gambling on sports playoffs such as the NCAA basketball tournament and football’s Super Bowl cost bettors millions, if not billions, of dollars. The Super Bowl consistently ranks as the most-watched television show in the history of television. World Cup Soccer likely draws the largest worldwide audience over the run of the tournament than does any other sporting event.

But is this overlapping confluence of sports a good thing? Rabid sports fans may think October is the greatest month. Others may simply roll their eyes and look for other entertainment. Some say sports are a great metaphor for life, and participation in sports builds character. Others may say spectator sports detract from more important issues in the world such as poverty and economics; armed conflicts between nations, ethnic groups, and religious groups; and globalization, health care, and equal justice under the law based on race, gender or sexual preference.

The time and money spent on watching and betting on sports are staggering to any small nation with a limited government and few natural resources or products to sell to the world. Discussions about sports supersede discussions about politics, religion, health, economics, and solutions to other global problems. TV, radio, and internet media spend billions broadcasting, promoting, and discussing sporting events at the expense of better educating and informing their audiences. Individuals find it easy to lose themselves in a world of fantasy leagues, constant reading and discussion about their favorite sport, and watching endless hours of TV broadcasting of sporting events of all kinds.

Are we, as a society, distracting ourselves from the more important issues the world faces because we’d rather be involved with less stressful activities such as sports? If we diverted the time, money, and human capital that is now spent on sports spectating to activities that may actually improve the human condition, could the world change for the better? Would nations become less combative if their citizens abandoned the sports mentalities of win at all costs, we’re number one, and demolishing inferior opponents rather than helping them off the turf?

Sports, like politics, has dramatically changed in the past one hundred years. They both have had significant impacts on, at least, the “American way of life.” It doesn’t seem that those impacts have been overall positive.
Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Professional sports have become too big of an influence in our society yet there are good and bad points to be considered with that influence. If public policies and guidelines are going to be built on professional sports, then discussions should be entered into as to how far those influences should go, but it all depends on whether the sport involved has had a positive impact on society or one that has created controversy and garnered negative attention, which seems to be occurring a lot these days.

Professional sports can be an unequal force in terms of those receiving its benefits. Those athletes, coaches, owners, administrators and others in it are of small proportion in relation to their fan base, and they derive the most benefits and rewards from it, while thousands of fans, amateur sports enthusiasts and aspiring professionals stand on the sidelines and view the unattainable or dream and fantasize about their involvement in sports.

Professional sports promises thrilling returns and those given access to it become part of an exclusive club and can either choose to represent what is good about sports or take on an air of superiority in their quest for a spot in the hierarchy. Fans have taken note of those aspects and have seen a progression towards what they feel the nation’s pastimes have now become and what they should be.

Outsiders and exuberant fans are held captive by professional sports and what they provide. The entertainment value, the glory, camaraderie, the armchair quarterbacking and the opportunity for the possibility of direct input and participation in it all makes professional sports extremely enticing. Some enthusiasts go as far as to pattern their lives around professional sports and live their own past sporting lives through the professionals.

The uplifting and worshipping of the powerful in professional sports is a strong influence, but it is a distraction from just how far professional sports should be allowed to dominate those outside of the game. Athletes, coaches, and sports administrators are people like anyone else and they don’t magically have the answers to why sports should have a hold or strong influence on society. They don’t necessarily have real vision and purpose, yet they are privileged, self-absorbed, and isolated and are the object of their adoring fans and others for simply being part of an exclusive club. They are also completely unaware as to how any professional sporting feat or accomplishment would be of lasting importance in the everyday lives of families, or for that matter an entire society.

Many that administrate, teach, coach, and play in sports today are lacking in the key elements of sportsmanship and sports ethics, as professional sports is more about big money, entertainment, fame, winning, making political statements and posturing on the side of controversy and un-American thinking. It seems that those involved in professional sports are preoccupied with what the sport does for them as opposed to what it brings to impressionable kids, devoted fans, sports aficionados and the public in general.

There are those at high levels in professional sports that want to project a selfless image and retain clean and homespun images of sports, and they have done so through proactive and beneficial actions outside of their own sports bubble, such as team sponsorships, scholarship offerings, charitable giving, community organizations, sports camps, hospital support and visitations, game ticket giveaways, patriotic affiliations, contests and other constructive and supportive kinds of programs, which bring a positive influence to professional sports while showing appreciation to their fans and followers. They want to influence in the right way. Those outside of the professional circle are welcomed into the fold and given the opportunity to be part of the game in different capacities.

Professional sports will always be an influence, good or bad, on society, but more and more fans and interested individuals are aware of the less than positive changes in professional sports and are turning away from its influence. Their interests are waning because of the politicizing of sports and the distrust of those in charge of the overall structure and chain of command in professional sports. Their ideals have been dampened as to what professional sports should represent and how the whole system should be managed and presented to fans. It seems if professional sports administrators want to remain influential, they need to change their game plans.

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