With Super Bowl XL upon us--or “Super Bowl Extra-Large” as it's hilariously referred to by many a half-witted color commentator--it's time for us to take a serious look at the direction that professional sports are taking.
This isn't a rant about steroids or a call for less public money to be spent on sports stadiums or on sports in general (I recently got back from a professional basketball adventure in the Valley of the Sun that, it suffices to say, was not cheap).
It occurs to me, however, that sports, at the highest level, were not always played for a paycheck. In ancient times, for example, the Aztec and Mayan cultures engaged in sacred games in which the winners were lauded with praise and treated like semi-deities and the losers were immediately executed. In Ancient Rome, gladiators fought to the death in glorious battles against one another in hopes of one day securing their freedom and their place in history.
There appears, then, to be two basic elements that have been (or should always be) present in an athletic event worth its salt: glory and fame for the victors, and pain and death for the losers.
Looking at the current state of professional sports in our great nation, it seems we certainly provide the victors with glory and fame. Show me a child who can recite the number of times Kobe Bryant has scored over 40 points this season, and I'll show you a child with absolutely no idea what his math teacher's name is. The problem with today's sporting climate is that the losers are not punished at all. In fact, many of the so-called losers in sports are given more fame than some of the most successful people in other professional fields (see golfer/choke-artist Greg Norman).
It's time that we as a nation start holding our athletes accountable for their poor performances. I'm not suggesting that we kill anybody, but it certainly wouldn't kill us to start thinking outside the box a little bit on this one. Even the most casual of sports fans can detect an unacceptable level of lollygagging amongst our pro athletes. It's time to raise the stakes if we have any hope of truly enjoying another sporting event again.
Some sort of punishment must be levied against the teams that fail to outlast their competition. I haven't worked out all of the details yet, but I feel the harshest punishment should be handed out to those at the top: the team owners. These aristocratic playboys have had it too good for too long. It's time they suffer the consequences of their ineptitude and penny-pinching. I feel it would be appropriate for each owner whose team fails to make the playoffs for five consecutive years to have his hands ritually sliced off at the end of the season. This ceremony would serve as fair warning to other team owners who wish to hold on to their valuable appendages. It would also give new meaning to the term “hands-off owner.”
Other punishments for the players, coaches and possibly halftime show participants will, of course, need to be determined. But I feel I've done an adequate job of getting the ball rolling in our long and difficult quest to return accountability to the professional sports world.