Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sports Day

I’ve been rewatching the old TV series “Sports Night” on DVD lately, and I’m reminded how much I loved it when it ran. I also have a whole new perspective on the show. And while “Sports Night” isn’t a realistic portrayal of what happens behind the scenes, there are some times when it’s dead on.

Take today for example. There was lots of news on what is called the “Duke Lacrosse Case.” Only the case really has nothing to do with lacrosse and everything to do with sexual assault, false accusations and lawyers on both sides doing everything they can to get more face time on TV. This comes one day after a Tuesday in which the big sports stories were the response by the Rutgers women’s basketball team to bigoted comments by radio host Don Imus, and the NFL suspending Adam “Pac-Man” Jones and Chris Henry for 1 year and 8 games respectively for off-the-field conduct detrimental to the league.

What do all three of these sports stories have in common? Well, they consist of no actual sports. No games were played, no teams won, no teams lost, no one threw a ball or shot a puck or even executed a triple axel on ice. There were no shining moments, no one was simply the best and no radio announcers couldn’t believe what they just saw.

What does this have to do with “Sports Night”? Well, in the pilot episode, Casey, one of the anchors, is thinking about leaving sports. When his broadcast partner Dan asks him why, Casey responds that he’s tired. Dan asks “Tired of what?” Casey’s response:
"But first this: Sacramento power forward Jayson Grissom was released by a judge in Houston this morning after posting a $50,000 bond." Which, by the way, he paid in cash he happened to have in his pocket.
He goes on to add:
Any atrocity, no matter how ridiculous or hideous or childish, it doesn't matter. I make it sports. Ten cent bag man whacks a skater's leg with a crowbar, that's sports. Second round draft pick gets cranky in a Houston bar, and that's sports. And let's not forget the mother of all great sports stories: a double homicide in Brentwood.
Trust me, there is nothing more depressing about my job than constantly having to do stories like this. I would love it if we never had to talk about the Adam Joneses and Don Imuses and Mike Nifongs of the world, but we do.

This story does have a happy ending though. At the end of the episode, Casey’s faith in sports is restored, thanks to the incredible accomplishments of an African distance runner named Ntozake Nelson, who at 41 years old breaks a world record. Now, I don’t plan on watching any distance races tonight, but the great thing about sports is there’s always an Ntozake Nelson out there just waiting to do something incredible -- on the field of play -- that, even if for just the briefest of moments, makes you forget about all the Jayson Grissom types.

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