The lament of second tier sports

May 20, 2010

I can’t remember a time when I was not into sports. Either I was playing sports,  reading the newspaper , or watching on TV.  One of the advantages of going to a Catholic high school was the blazer we had to wear.  I also always drew the last seat in the first row due to my last name beginning with a “D.” When the Phillies would play an afternoon game -quite often back in the day- I would put a transistor radio into my breast pocket and run the earphone through the sleeve and into the palm of my hand.  I looked like just another student resting his head on his hand. 

Funny thing is, I never fell in love with the stars.  I always went for the grinders.  The guys who worked twice as hard to be half as good.  I identified with them since that mirrored my own paltry athletic career.  While most boys worshiped Dr. J, I saved a piece of hero worship for Bobby Jones.  Who, in the words of former Sixer GM Pat Williams “Bobby gives two hours of blood, showers, and goes home.”  Sometimes grinders break through and become stars of a sort.  The ultimate grinder-made-good is Jens Voigt. 

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I have grown to love two sports that are the grinders of the sporting world.  First and foremost, Cycling and more recently, I have developed an affection for Lacrosse.  The later sport is through my son who is currently following his father as a grinder in a grinder sport.

One of the downsides to following these second tier sports is that they only time they make the front pages is when there is bad news.  We all know by now about the horrible tragedy in Virginia and of course, cycling is front page again with Floyd Landis’ admission. Even more unfortunate, the sport gets defined by these stories.

I am hearing that Lacrosse is full of thugs, that the sport is too violent.  I’ve engaged in countless debates as to whether cycling is a dirty sport and full of cheaters.  Bad people play sports.  All sports.  NBA players are frequently making the police blotters for rape, weapons, and drug charges.  How many non-cyclists showed up on BALCO’s ledgers.  Is professional football a bad sport because Ben Roethlisberger is a scum bag?   

It is a tough line to walk when I try to defend the sport without defending the abhorrent acts of any of its individuals.  I think all such arguments are just white noise or better yet, akin to the “Wa wa wa wa wa” of any adult in a Peanuts cartoon.

I’ll keep tilting at those windmills.  Twice as hard to be half as good.


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