Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Lost Inner Hero: an ex professional sports fan's manifesto.

I just made $1000 laying here, no, really, I did. 

Growing up in Winnipeg Canada, arguably one of the coldest cities on the earth, I spent a lot of time out playing on the ice and snow. Every kid in the neighborhood had a hockey stick and a pair of skates. Playing the game, watching the game and collecting the stickers, cards and memorabilia was a rite of passage. I looked up to the Gretzkys and Hawerchuks of my era. Rooted my team and felt the elation and pride of the overtime game winning goals like I had scored them myself.

But what the hell happened to professional sports since the eighties? This is an industry out of control, corporatized, with money being the one true motivation for many of these athletes, and the organizations that hire them to play.... a game. 

I'll tell you why I no longer spend time watching, following or spending money on professional sports and all its related manifestations.

Living in Ottawa for the past twenty years prior to moving to British Columbia, I supported my local hockey team, the Ottawa Senators. I was pretty in to it. I knew where my team was in the standings, the stats of most of the players on the team and the top point-getters in the league, as well as a plethora of additional information. The captain of the team for the last decade or so was a fan favourite, Daniel Alfredsson, a Swede who was a nobody, an under-hero in every sense of the word, a late in the draft pick. Daniel won many trophies including the Lady Bing trophy, awarded for the most gentlemanly player in the league. He was a class act in every sense of the word and his on ice heroics were stuff of legend.

He carried the team through trial and tribulation from the dredges of the NHL to the top of the league. What a story! He played every game in his career in an Ottawa jersey, that is until he decided he was near retirement.

After a stellar career in Ottawa, seeing that his chances at Stanley Cup glory would most likely ever be realized in Ottawa - he left. He got a big check with another team, and went to where he thought he could realize that dream.  

Arguably we can say; “well, he had to go for his dreams”, and maybe the team couldn't afford to pay him what he wanted so he had to do what was right for him. I say, he fell under the burdens of his ego and the almighty buck. Even an athlete of his reputation is still a product of the insanity of professional sports. He packed up and left the team, instead of giving it one last hurrah. The team lost it's heart and soul and the city and its teeming masses of sports fans were left broken hearted.  To this date Daniel's hopes for a Stanley Cup have yet to materialize.

Professional sports is a soul less, lesson in mass-hypnosis. Many will disagree with that opinion, but they would be those heavily under the spell. Who wins what, has little bearing on what is actually important in life. What matters even less is who you cheer for. Most of the players on a city's pro team have no more loyalty to it then a mercenary who chooses a side in a war. Let me be clear, most pro athletes DO NOT CARE about the citizenry or the city that they live in. Of course there are many that support charity and show up for the pomp and circumstance, but in the end, when lured elsewhere with a big shiny paycheck, like a fart in the wind, POOF, they are gone.  This is the rule, not the exception.  

We pay guys, and yes it's mostly guys, millions of dollars to kick or throw balls, in athletic magnificence. Some of them hit pucks, or do other things that are cool, but should they make so much money? I admire peak athletes and the things that they do, don't get me wrong. I SUPPORT SPORTS. I just don't support professional sports, or at least what has become of them nowadays. I think athleticism is as integral to being a human as literature, I really do. Athletes can inspire us to take better care of our bodies and push our physical limits to levels beyond imagination, my argument is that we glorify sports to the level of insanity.

What makes the Olympics so awe inspiring is that the athletes that compete are non-professional, they don't compete for the sake of money, they compete to be the best that they can be for themselves and their countries, of which THEY ARE CITIZENS. I know an Olympian, he is a great guy, he also works for a living, and his work ethic in life is a reflection of his athletic work ethic. For this reason alone, I think it is of utmost importance to keep ourselves and our kids involved in athletics, but for the love of god, let's stop pushing them to be professional athletes.

I have been in a parental role with kids in sports. There is a sickly desperation which can permeate the games at the competitive level. Some parents who are upstanding citizens become obsessive, angry, ref-hating, maniacs who think if their children don't perform that they are failures. I have seen it. Of course it is great to have passion and enthusiasm, but let's take it down a notch, or ten.

What are we teaching kids? So many are being driven so hard to achieve in sports, because of the professional sports hero fantasy. An incredibly small percentage of kids will become pro in their sport of passion, but so many kids aspire to be just that. Of those pro athletes, the majority of them will have a short career; on average a hand full of years. And what about the majority of athletes themselves, what do they do win they hit it big? Spending spree! What an example to role model kids after: big houses, fast cars and lots of cool toys. Then a bunch of these guys have endorsement contracts, and try and pedal us a plethora of products. The world needs smart kids, future problem solvers, engineers, humanists, not more glorified pro athletes turned salesmen.

Then there is the compulsion to obsess over sports. To watch games, pour over stats, enter pools and get emotionally perturbed when one's team doesn't win. How many times have we seen someone we know yell at the television, as if the player's can hear, or would even care what they are saying. Many people waste such an enormous amount of time concerned with sports and all its minutia, that it detracts from reality. The classic stereotype of an American, is a man in a lazy boy chair, wearing a sports jersey, drinking a six pack and eating potato chips. It's a fair one. Remember I've been a sports fan, and its great to hang out with friends and watch a game, but when you spend a half a day or more a week watching sports, checking your smartphone constantly for scores and stats you may want to reconsider priorities.

Who loves watching sports!? This guy... look how happy he is.

Why have so many become sports watching junkies?  My partner Symentha had amazing insight on this that made me rethink this entire blog entry.  She was so bang on I had goosebumps when she explained her observations to me.

Men have lost their inner hero.

When did we stop rooting for team "us" and fall under the spell of the pro sports celebrity hockie-pokie? Why did apathy for our own lives over take us?

I used to be full of testosterone, ideas and creative energy, but as life and its responsibilities take hold of us we start to fizzle.  Many of us begin to punch a clock, raise families, and become overburdened with the existence of daily life.  It is very easy, to zone out, and plug into the world of cable television and pro sports.

I know, life can be a grind, but we need to keep pushing, and nurturing that inner hero. The challenges may change, and maybe we can't run as fast or throw as far as we used to, but we can still push our selves in other ways.   We can build, create art, music, literature, pick up a book, be completely present with our children, volunteer for a cause we believe in. We can be our own hero again.

Once we shut that off that ability to push our boundaries and numb out we end up spending countless hours on the lazy boy or couch, and lose ourselves.  But what is the best part about watching sports?  The come back, the under dog story.  Get up, keep your goals small to start, and be the comeback story.  

Since I've cut the pro sports out I've had a lot of time to do things in the real world. Travelling, reading, taking courses, spending time with people I love, doing meaningful volunteer work and getting some exercise are of much higher importance to me then being a slave to the professional sports world fantasy. I refuse to invest money into professional sports by going to games, watching endless hours of television, which is really just a trick to get you to absorb advertising, and spend money on anything that perpetuates this insanity.  

I understand that there are a lot of people that might disagree with this post, and I always welcome debate and opposing view points - I speak from my own life experience with a desire to help people grow and embrace life, I want to see more heroes out there.  The world needs a big overhaul, it needs men (and women) who challenge themselves, and want to do something.  Do yourself a favor, put down the remote control, iPad, phone or laptop and pick up something - anything!  A hammer, a book, a hobby, a kid.  Go be a...

you will be glad you did.

1 comment:

  1. I feel you dog. Respect. Keep spreading knowledge.