December is probably the busiest and most exciting time of year for sports fans. Winter break provides us with an unprecedented amount of events to watch from the sports world — college football bowl games have just been picked and start soon; college basketball is now in full swing; the playoff picture in the NFL is becoming clearer each week; the NBA’s shortened season is approaching.
And even if you don’t like any of those options on the menu, you could try some international cuisine in the form of weekly soccer matches from the Premier League and elsewhere across Europe.
Personally, I love this time of year in terms of sports, especially because the big two college sports — basketball and football — are my favorites. And there are millions of other Americans (and especially college students) out there who feel the same way I do, whether they’re anticipating the BCS National Championship in January, the Super Bowl in February, or the madness that ensues in March. If there’s one aspect of American culture that we can’t ignore, it’s our profound interest in sports.
Now, whether it’s a “good” or “bad” thing that sports are valued so highly in our culture, we must first admit that they are most certainly so-valued. In a complex, high-speed, always-changing society, sedentary institutions we strive to find meaning in to enrich our lives are short-numbered. But sports may just offer one of the best examples. Sure you have your religion, but what do you really talk about at work at the water cooler? And is that an ESPN article you’re reading on your laptop during class or scripture?
Perhaps this isn’t a good thing. I’ve heard plenty of times that athletes don’t “do” anything but make millions of dollars only to work a few hours a week.
If you really don’t think athletes, or sports in general, provide anything “productive” for our society, then who makes you throw your arms up and scream in excitement on Saturdays? Certainly not the people who serve you hamburgers at McDonald’s or your chemistry professor. Athletes do.
Sure, they may be overpaid, and yes, we might deify the great achievers in sports when they don’t deserve it. But we are also prepared to destroy them. Joe Paterno, a man once hailed as one of the all-time great coaches and great men of college sports got thrown under the bus. Why? Because he was the easy target — he was the guy we all looked up to. And we destroyed his legacy because it seems so tangible to us. Why? Because we found meaning in it.