The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

March 28, 2007

Sports and Life

For those of you who sometimes read this blog, you'll know I'm a sportswriter and have recently spent several days with the Canadian women's hockey team in Dauphin, Manitoba.

I have joked about the 5-foot-2, 890-pound coach and the svelte, strong, female athletes who could eat me alive and bench-press me 100 times if they wanted to. I've made light about it all.

And I've had fun doing that. (besides that, it's probably true)

I've now returned from that training camp, and have a day or two off before the World Women's Hockey Championship begins in Winnipeg April 3, which I'll be covering til April 10.

And I had a lot of time to meet these women, some of whom I knew before and had interviewed.
And I marvel at who and what they are. And because of that, I still marvel at the beauty of sports -- REAL SPORTS.

As far as I'm concerned, after doing this for roughly 27 years, amateur athletes are the only athletes who are like you and me.
They're at the top of their sport, but they DON'T GET PAID FOR IT.

I don't care about Barry Bonds, I don't care about Peyton Manning (although he was super funny on SNL recently), I don't care about any of the 7-foot NBA stars like Shaquille Oneal.
I don't even care about the National Hockey League's Sidney Crosby.




Or this guy, whoever he is...


I DO care about Hayley Wickenheiser (below), Jennifer Botterill, Angela Ruggerio (of the U.S.) and many other elite athletes who compete in their sports just because they love competing in their sports...

...Without the million-dollar contracts they might earn if they and so many others were competing in sports that are all about TV and deemed professional and made into commercial entities rather than sport.

Sport, at its grassroots, is a beautiful thing. Some of my best memories are of playing hockey, football, baseball, basketball, at the local arenas or fields or courts or diamonds, with friends.

I wish it's the only sports we had. The people are real, like you and me, and don't just spit out stupid cliches for seven-second TV sound bytes. They care. And for the past week, I've loved writing their stories.

For them, it's not about earning money or huge sponsorship deals, necessarily, but about representing their countries. And doing the best they can and being the best they can be.

If only sport could really be about sport, with nothing but sport and winning and losing a part of it. Amateur athletes are beautiful people.

The Olympics is still one of the few events that hasn't sold itself out to a title sponsor. I hope it stays that way.

When the Visa 100-metre sprint or the BankAmerica Olympic Gold Medal Game become the norm, I'm tuning out. Sport is one of the things we still can truly call our own, if we want to.
And nowadays, I think, that's what we need.

28 comments:

  1. Well, yes on most of that, but I can't agree on the Olympics. The Games may not "...be brought to you by the makers of Sudso Washrite..." but the athletes are, almost without exception, heavily sponsored.And the Games are "merchandised" to the hilt.
    OK, I'll go away now and hide from all the armchair umpires who might want to crash tackle me!

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  2. Dinah:

    Fair enough, but I must differ, at least somewhat. There's sponsorship, then there's SPONSORSHIP.

    The massively funded American basketball team at the Games, for example, is dripping in Nike dollars.

    The Canadian women's hockey team is not. Sure they get their uniforms and equipment paid for, and they get government funding as individual players of about $1,000 a month.

    They don't make millions in salary and millions more in promotional ads, etc.

    That's the distinction I'm trying to make. And the Olympics of course involves sponsorship, but thankfully, it has not become the (put sponsor's name here) Beijing Olympic Games.

    When it does, I'll croak.

    You don't have to go away and hide. You're right. But it's a matter of degree, I think.

    I first got super pissed off about this when I was watching a Major League Baseball game and the announcer said, "This pitching change is brought to you by Rolaids..."

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  3. I agree that it is taken to the extreme in most cases but I can also appreciate how the endorsements also helps introduce a lot of the really talented athletes to the masses from third world countries like mine who wouldn't have access to cable television, for instance.

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  4. Mench:

    Would you call the Phillippines a Third World Country?

    In any event, good thought and intelligent. But I only wish it was that way on a big scale.

    The long-distance runners from Africa, for example, are the best natural runners in the world.

    But they have to compete against North Americans and Europeans who have huge sponsorship deals and elite training and all the best equipment...

    And they STILL beat them!!! I just wish it was more equitable. But all the sponsors care about is promoting their products. So they're always going to go with the big media darlings.

    Sad, but true.

    It's all so shallow and denigrates the true meaning of sport (in my opinion).

    :-)

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  5. I really, really like the Fleetwood Mac song you are playing today. :-)

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  6. Yes the Philippines is a third world country. You cannot imagine the poverty and the corruption that is going on. The rich get richer, we pay taxes that go to politicians' pockets.

    I could go on but will spare you all the other gory details.

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  7. me again! Last week (or whenever it was!) I flippantly said: "Hey! Cricket just got interesting - Ireland beat Pakistan! Guffaw-guffaw."
    Oops! Now there's a murder investigation.
    But it highlights my (and your) point about Big Money being involved in sport.
    Who is old enough to remember seeing Abebe Bekele, the Ethiopian runner, come into the stadium in Rome (1964)to win the marathon? Long before the Nike/ Reebok/Asic/Whatever crews got into the act. I was one of the loudest cheerers.
    I gave up at the Los Angeles affair when indigenous people didn't get a mention at the openinig ceremony, but African slaves'did.
    Now I'll crawl away again...and maybe play trains on narrow-guage.

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  8. This is a rant for me, just waiting to happen.

    I work in social services at the mercy of conservatard voters for money, none of whom give a rat's petard about anyone but themselves and getting ahead.

    Yet, there are people out there, throwing a g-damn ball around who get millions and millions of dollars.

    Hey, I'll throw a g-damn ball around, now can my client get her blood pressure medication????

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  9. Just to clarify: I would take money from Nike if it got my clients some decent care. We're not so proud in the social services field, and I work at the poverty level myself in order to do it.

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  10. I would like a posting about the unsung heroes of darts. And snooker. And how they suffer for their sport.

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  11. Laurie:

    'Tis a nice tune, isn't it? It's called Landslide...

    ;-)

    And speaking of Landslide, where's your landslide of commentary on the post? Whaddya think?

    Menchie:

    I guess I thought the Phillippines was one of the have nations in southeast Asia, at least comparatively speaking.

    I hope it gets better.

    Dinah:

    I can't specifically remember the Ethiopian running into the stadium in Rome (I woulda been 8).

    But that's what the Olympics has been and what it should be but which it is becoming less and less.

    Now Visa or American Express compete with each other for dibs as the card of the Games.

    Go play trains on narrow gauge. It's more of a sport than some of the so-called sports now, and it's non-commercialized...

    Shelley:

    Yep, the cruelty of it all and the plain social injustice of the haves and have-nots is stark and inhumane.

    Nike wouldn't provide that money, of course, unless it got something bigger in return...

    I salute and respect you for making the sacrifice to make. Really.

    MJ:

    "ONE HUNDREDDDDD AND FOOOOAAATTYYY!!!"

    I love darts and pool too, but cmon...I'm not sure I'd be callin' them sports any time soon.

    I'd be callin' them drinkin' games, girl...

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  12. I do love watching local teams play. When I lived in Billings I watched the local baseball team (the Mustangs) as often as possible. It was a blast to watch and the players really cared about winning and the sportsmanship was outstanding.

    However, I'm a also big fan of major league baseball. I started following the Atlanta Braves because they are my dad's favorite team, but it really got into my blood. I can't say as I'm a rabid fan, but I watch as often as is humanly possible. Would I have started following baseball if my dad wasn't such a big fan? Probably not. Would I stop if he stopped? NO WAY!

    I agree that so-called professional sports are too commercialized. It offends me, in a way, to see the advertising signs strategically placed in the outfield, and even more so to hear the announcers continuously mention the sponsors.

    I also think the amount of money the "top" athletes in these sports are paid is obscene. I think that kind of money could be better spent in other ways. But it really doesn't matter what I think. People, being people after all, will do what they want. I guess if the fans stopped watching the games then things would change. But I can't see that happening in the foreseeable future. I know I won't.

    And as I drive by Coors field most days on the way to the hospital, I can't help but wish my dad was healthy enough to go see the Braves/Rockies game on April 28.

    How's that for a landslide of commentary? ;-)

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  13. Laurie:

    Wow, girl! That is a landslide of commentary! But thanks so much.

    The only problem is, the Braves are a bunch of wussies. (*Runs away, grabs tomahawk in defence*)

    They are a good team and have been for a long time. I hope they do well for you this season.

    You're right...as long as people keep tuning in on TV or keep going to games, this crass commercialization will go on.

    It's all tied together, and obviously there's huge money to be made, which brings pro sports well beyond the game these guys grew up playing.

    They all say it themselves: "It's a business." And it is. And that's sad.

    Are you sure you couldn't bring your dad to that Braves/Rockies game?

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  14. Very true, the money makes people forget why it is that we run/ride/swim/train and play.... Simply because it is fun, you meet people and a sense of achievement....

    Unfortunately, making ends meet can get in the way... athletes need enough to survive...so the money is a nesscessary evil...

    However, i still believe a million dollars a year to kick a ball around to be extravagent.

    Oh yeah and welcome back:)

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  15. Professional athletes should be tried on charges of crimes against humanity and common sense..that being said the people keep buying tickets and disassociating themselves from reality through this mindless activity....which works perfectly into the hands of the military/industrial/governmental complex and keeps the great unwashed from actually dealing with real issues and problems...
    therefore the masses deserve what they get and deserve it good and hard!

    Does anybody remember when professional athletes were role models?! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

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  16. I am not into sports.

    Maybe that is why I could stand to lose a few pounds.

    Excellent post...very valid points.

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  17. ooo look who's back :)

    WB n HUGGGGGGGZ!
    Keshi.

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  18. nice post, ww. i wish i agreed with you about the olympics but i think diahmow is right. what isn;t yet merchandised will be.

    it's nice to hear menchie and shelley driving home the distinctions that open eyes can never miss.

    i'm happpy for you that you got to spend time with and cover real and deserving atheletes.

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  19. I'm with awaiting -not much of a sports fan. Most of it seems to take itself too seriously. People get so PASSIONATE over things -such as soccer. And my ex-husband would get SO upset if his footy team(rugby league)lost and I'd be thinking "Can't you see that it's a GAME!!!". All that money thrown at sport and I can't be convinced that the players are any happier than the kid playing cricket in the backyard :).

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  20. Aidan:

    I think at its grassroots, that's what sport starts out as being: fun, physical activity, etc.

    But pro athletes need a way to make ends meet and to survive? So they deserve million-dollar contracts?

    Oh, we could get into such a huge debate over this by going back into the history of sport...

    This is my line, and I'm sticking to it: it's the team owners and big business that have caused all those million-dollar salaries...

    But it's also the media, particularly TV, that promote these athletes to the nth degree.

    In the end, it's the average Joe who actually pays the bucks to watch, no different from Entertainment Tonight...

    Homerly Endema:

    I think you go overboard a bit blaming the pro athletes so much and the crimes against humanity bit.

    But the rest of it does greatly ring true, I'm afraid. We watch. We pay. They make money. They pay the big salaries.

    Some pro athletes are good role models, actually.

    Awaiting:

    Get into sports, girl! There's probably a spot on the U.S. female skeleton team open for you right now!

    Keshi:

    I easily picked you in the middle. Easily.

    Don't know how much I'm back, but, yep...

    KJ:

    I'm hoping the Olympics will continue to at least partly resist. You can't escape the commercialism totally...

    I think your comment about open eyes is judgmental about others who may not agree and who have equally open eyes, although I understand, respect and get what both Menchie and Shelley are saying.

    Nonetheless, you have a right to make that comment in a tone and fashion you choose.

    I did and do enjoy getting to know and relating with and interviewing amateur athletes.

    They want to tell their stories...so many pro athletes don't.

    Lee:

    Yeah, people who aren't into sports don't get people who are into sports, quite often.

    If you are competitive, and play or have played sports and get from it what I have gotten, you can't help but become a fan of watching others play.

    Yes, it's just a game, it always is. For some, when millions of dollars are on the line and millions of people are watching, it becomes more than that.

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  21. ww, judgemental? more like disgusted with too much for the haves and too little for the have nots.

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  22. Super that you can meet so many super women : enjoy !

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  23. I *love* the Olympics and there are several other sponsored events I can't miss -- like the triple crown races and the Stanley Cup playoffs, but for the most part, amateur sport is what I want to watch. That's *real* sport.

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  24. KJ:

    OK, thanks.

    Hildegarde:

    Will do, Hildie!

    Andrea:

    I bet I've watched one NHL regular-season game this year. Once they get to the final 8 or final 4, I'll get interested...

    The Olympics really are the only thing left that's anywhere close to real, although all the doping and sponsorship is polluting that too.

    How about if I we all just head to Vancouver and watch your son play rugby or soccer?

    ;-)

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  25. I'm really not into sports, so I don't feel I can really add any worthwhile comment here. However, I think sports should be for amateurs only. There shouldn't be any professional sports. I think sports are wonderful for teaching children to enjoy physical activity and stay fit and whatnot, but the whole professional stuff has gotten way out of hand.

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  26. Anna:

    Ha! I think your comments are super intelligent and among the most noteworthy.

    No pro sports? It's a worthy ideal, but it won't happen because it's all about money and TV and promotion and big business.

    There's a book that looks at elite sports from the time of the Roman gladiators and how (see HE's comment) it's always been about diversion from other issues, and displaying the "best" that mankind (humankind) can be.

    Testing our limits, etc., I mean.

    It's called The Rites of Men -- Manhood, Politics and the Culture of Sport. By Varda Burstyn.

    You're right on both counts in your last para (in my opinion) about sports being fantastic for kids, it really helped formulate who I am today, but the pro stuff has, as you say, gotten completely out of hand.

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  27. hey- how cool is that! i have a coupla friends on the south african women's ice hockey team! they were just overseas too!

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  28. Angel:

    That IS cool. I didn't know SA had a women's ice hockey team...maybe they'll make it to the Worlds one day...

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