Thursday, April 24, 2003
Quit your crying
By Patrick Hruby Page 2 columnist
Yeah, us. The player-hatin', ref-baitin', game-disruptin', cell phone-chuckin' unwashed masses, yearning to celebrate our recent release from the stadium pokey and/or sobriety by rushing the field and laying waste to a perfectly good piece of municipal property.
Let's be honest: If it wasn't for $85 tickets, they'd never let us into the building.
Forget, for a moment, the boorish behavior. Even if you're a futbol fan. Fact is, most of us are ingrates. Flip on the tube. We're given countless hours of free entertainment, a way to escape the quiet desperation of our tedious little lives. Yet the minute someone threatens a strike or lockout -- players and owners merely exercising the sort of bargaining power most of us can only dream of -- we moan and wail like a child whose ice cream cone just plopped down on the sidewalk.
Well, guess what: We're not entitled. Nobody owes us anything. Teams and leagues don't belong to us. They belong to people who could buy and sell us a hundred times over, assuming they aren't busy selling us egregiously overpriced Personal Seat Licences. Which we snap up like bacon-wrapped Krispy Kremes.
Hey, you pay your money, you take your chances.
The same thing goes for athletes. Plastering our bedroom walls with Michael Jordan posters doesn't make him beholden to us. Yet we show up at his workplace, nitpick his every move, blithely judge his personal life and then expect him to sign our half-soiled napkin. While he's trying to eat dinner. Even though we're just going to turn around and put up for sale on eBay. Alongside the remnants of his mostly-smoked cigar.
Peel away the hype, the misplaced civic pride, the naked idolatry, and there's something a little unseemly about our slavish devotion to a group of heroes whose noteworthy accomplishments boil down to depositing some sort of ball in a specially-marked location. Consider the time we invest, including the 60-odd seconds it takes to read these words. Wouldn't it be better spent with our wives? Our husbands? Our kids?
Instead of shooting off fantasy baseball questions to ESPN.com -- questions, it should be noted, that will later be answered on air -- what if we actually redoubled our efforts at work? Think that might boost our flagging economy a little more than swapping Kevin Millwood for Roy Halladay?
Look, there's nothing wrong with loving the games, enjoying the competition, getting a few thrills from a well-placed ball-like object. But when diversion becomes pathology -- marked by hooliganism, obsession, vast amounts of time and money that could be better spent someplace else -- then something in the $5-a-pop stadium water does not compute.
Oh, and don't get us started on the press.
Patrick Hruby is a sportswriter for the Washington Times. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.