I am not a fan of professional sports anymore. Mainly because I believe more sportsmanship, character, and sometimes even ability, used to be displayed at the ragtag baseball games we used to play in the vacant lot down the street from the house in which I grew up (yes, I was a tomboy).
We played with heart. We went all out. We didn’t need umpires -- majority ruled. We patted each other on the back for a heads-up play, and criticized each other on the days that we weren’t playing up to par. We played in dirty old Keds, cheap shorts or jeans that didn’t have a fancy name-brand displayed on the seam, and torn t-shirts.
We had no backstop, used stones, pieces of tree limbs (or whatever) for bases, thought nothing of sliding into home headfirst, often came home with fresh scrapes and bruises, and mowed the grass ourselves (with a rotary mower) when it got too high to play a fair game.
We loved the game.
Nowadays, baseball’s (and other sports’) professionals, more often than not, are businessmen with a skill. And, in recent years, even the ‘skill’ part of the equation is often suspect.
Barry Bonds recently captured the crown as the all-time leader in career homeruns, eclipsing the likes of Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. Sadly, Bonds’ ‘achievement’ epitomizes the way in which genuine achievement in modern America has become diluted beyond recognition. Call me a purist, if you must, but the rules of the game (almost all ‘games’ – in sports, politics, business, economics, academics, etc.) have found themselves so perverted as to be virtually meaningless, in many instances. And, as a result, genuine greatness often finds itself eclipsed by sleight of hand.
But I digress ...
Re: the new homerun record holder -- The human body does not dramatically increase its efficiency, output, power, size, or endurance, after thirty-five years of living. Not without the help of artificial catalysts.
It simply doesn’t happen.
Considerable talent is sufficient for a man of integrity, whatever the record books read. But a man lacking in character who is not content with his completely natural excellence, decides that it is more important to achieve unnatural excellence in order to find his name indelibly inscribed above predecessors whose gift was sufficient. And the system has afforded him a green light to do so.
The end is now far more glorified than the path that one traverses in order to get there.
The dilution – even perversion -- of the definition of excellence is one of the infamous hallmarks of a society in decline. Break out the asterisks. And await, sadly, the approach of the day when they will no longer even be deemed necessary.