Howard Bryant has a good piece about our increasingly shrill sports culture over at ESPN:
As technology expands and speeds discourse, edges have sharpened. The attraction to and appreciation for high-level competition — ostensibly the reason we watch these golden athletes — disappear as soon as the final gun sounds. The blame game is our new national pastime.
…A couple of weeks ago, Charles Barkley told me he believes this dangerous undercurrent is affecting play.
“Everyone is so worried about whether they win a championship,” he said. “They don’t care about getting there, about having to beat the best to be the best. All they worry about is what is going to be said about them if they don’t get there. I really believe this. Media and expectations have changed everything. Everyone’s afraid of it because if you miss a shot, if you miss a play, that overshadows the whole series, your whole career. So guys just want a ring, but they don’t want to risk losing. If you don’t want to risk losing, you shouldn’t even be playing.”
And this from a piece on Kendrick Perkins reacting to LeBron James’ tweet about a dunk Blake Griffin threw down over Perkins recently (the story is by Mark J. Spears at Yahoo Sports):
“If I was in the same position, in the same rotation, I’m going to jump again and again and again,” Perkins told Yahoo! Sports. “I don’t care. A lot of people are afraid of humiliation or don’t know how to handle embarrassment or would even get embarrassed. I don’t care.
…“You don’t see Kobe [Bryant] tweeting,” Perkins said. “You don’t see Michael Jordan tweeting. If you’re an elite player, plays like that don’t excite you. At the end of the day, the guys who are playing for the right reasons who are trying to win championships are not worrying about one play.”
Last week I heard Jeff Van Gundy refer to a former player as a winner. Not because the player had won a championship but because of the way he practiced and played the game. You can’t be afraid to fail if you are a true professional. Bryant makes a good point. Our sense of appreciation is often overshadowed these days by a willingness to blame and find fault. But that’s like a coke binge, bad vibes feeding off bad vibes. Appreciation is the name of the game. In the NFL, there was little that separated the last four teams. To dwell on the mistakes made by the Ravens, 49ners and Patriots is missing the point.
[Photo Credit: Paul Sancya and Pat Semansky/AP]