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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Everything In It's Place

This fall, the United States held its 54th presidential election.  But, it was the first election held during the Twitter era.  As such, during every debate and on election night, sports fans were subjected to 140 characters worth of political opinions from athletes and sports writers.  This resulted in mass complaining and mass unfollowing.  That reaction led to sports figures shouting back that they are entitled to their opinions.  They further shouted that those who don't want their opinions on their Twitter feeds are just too shallow and intolerant to appreciate what they have to say.

On Saturday, December 1, 2012, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs shot and killed the mother of his child before shooting and killing himself in front of Chiefs officials.  Because this story involved a murder and suicide committed by a football player, during the season and on team property, this was understandably reported by sports media outlets.  But, the next day, Bob Costas took advantage of the situation and his bully pulpit to turn his halftime segment during NBC's Sunday Night Football broadcast into a monologue on the need for more gun control laws.  To be expected, this did not sit well with many gun-owning football fans across the country.  And predictably, the sports media establishment rallied behind Costas and his freedom of speech.

On December 17, 2012, Syracuse defeated Detroit on the basketball court.  As a result, Jim Boeheim became the third coach in Division I men's basketball history to win 900 games.  As a result, Boeheim was a popular guest on the sports talk shows the following day.  Boeheim started the morning on ESPN's popular TV/radio show Mike and Mike in the Morning.  Later in the day, Boeheim was on the Dan Patrick Show on NBC Sports.  On both occasions, the basketball coach used the platform to discuss gun legislation in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, CT.  Although Boeheim's opinions are clearly heartfelt and possibly well-informed, the timing and venue of his comments left many in the audience feeling uneasy.  And once again, those uneasy folks were labeled as close-minded and unsophisticated by others with widespread access to the public.

But judgements as to the mental acuity or the complexity of thought of those who prefer not to mix their sports and politics is simply unfair.  It's not that these uneasy fans do not think sports personalities are prohibited from having opinions about social issues.  Rather, these fans understand two things.  First, sports are a diversion from real life.  Second, and more importantly, these fans know that everything has a place.  In our increasingly compartmentalized society, we look to different people for different information.

This principle doesn't just apply to hot button political issues and elections.  Let me run you through a few scenarios.  If you show up to a meeting with your financial advisor, do you want him to hand you a brochure about your mutual fund's performance or give you a copy of his March Madness bracket?  When you sit in a church pew, do you want the minister to preach from the Word or do you want them to compare and contrast the 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes?  When you turn on CNN, do you want Soledad O'Brien to talk about the turmoil in Egypt or to talk about the pros and cons of the BCS?  The answers to those questions are obvious.  Likewise, sports fans do not turn on sports shows in order to hear political and social debates.

And lest you are thinking that I, the Wild Banshee, am a one dimensional, vapid and sheltered individual, I will give you a rare glimpse behind the curtain.  I have a degree in political science.  And, I have stood in a yard as flies swarmed around a dead body that was face down with bullet holes in its head.  When we turned the body over, some of those bullets were mushroomed into the ground.  So, I actually do know a thing or two about gun violence.  I am interested in the gun legislation debate.  But, I am not interested in having that debate at halftime of a Cowboys game or in the midst of an early morning college basketball discussion.

I realize that even venturing into this topic on a sports blog is somewhat hypocritical, but I've struggled for months to put my finger on what has been making me uneasy about the sports and political dialogue over the past few months.  And, since I pay for this domain name, I didn't want to let these thoughts just slip away.  Come back later in the week and we'll be back to light-hearted sports commentary.


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