Sunday, February 7, 2010

When we're told that sports matter

So I work every Sunday from 4-9 meaning that while you were enjoying the Super Bowl I was bringing sandwiches to people's houses. It's alright though today was the sort of day where you notice the colors around you. A good day, as they tend to say.

But the Saints won and while I did not watch this happen, I know what was constantly discussed: how the Saints were playing for New Orleans, a city that is still far off of recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Far from recovery.

Everyone was pulling for the Saints tonight. If you aren't actually a Colts fan (or you put money on the Colts), you were pulling for the Saints to win because of the fact that we want to believe a Saints win is a win for New Orleans, a city that hasn't been on the winning end of anything for the past 5 years. This was a time when sports became intermingled with the outside world and was able to write a feel good story. The Saints winning tonight was a way for us to feel like good triumphed, that a disaster like Hurricane Katrina (which was so devastating that you wonder how and why it could have happened, how does something like this happen to so many innocent people), can't keep people down. Everyone from New Orleans won tonight.

This happens all the time in sports broadcasting. All the time. It's like that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer tells that sick kid that Paul O'Neill will hit two home runs for him. Sick kids, natural disasters, third world countries will always be linked to stories about sports. Those little segments they run at half-time about how Warrick Dunn builds houses for single moms or how that 8 year old with leukemia spent an hour with David Wright, you've seen the story a hundred times. And it feels good. It always feels good. You get this distinct feelgood sense that only these type of stories can provide.

The Saints winning the Super Bowl is massive. Someone is going to publish a book about this and it's going to sell millions.

But sports don't matter. There have been so many people who have protested that they do (W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, which became Field of Dreams, is the best example. One of the best parts in that story is when J.D. Salinger, or James Earl Jones, gives that monologue about how baseball binds this country. It's beautiful.) But I don't really agree. I still contend that sports really don't matter the way we're told they do. Sports matter to us personally. I'm tied to the New York Rangers like they're a member of my family. I consider Adam Graves to be one of my heroes. But sports are in our lives to free us of reality. Sometimes it works, but there are situations where they don't mean dick. And I don't think that people point that part of the story out enough. The Saints winning the Super Bowl does not fix New Orleans. I wish it did, but I think that fact shouldn't be ignored. Maybe we can feel a little bit better for some time but nothing has changed.

This isn't a post about what needs to be done about New Orleans or why people should scoff at these feel good stories. Really I'm in awe at how they function as narratives. These stories about how professional sports transcend from being "just a game" to something that effects our lives can be told over and over again with different people and different situations and it will always have an affect. But I think everyone should remember that the story isn't over. And while we feel good now, there's a lot of time left in the game.

1 comment:

  1. sports generate billions of dollars, they unite people (perhaps artificially), they entertain, the define famous human beings (the athletes) and are one of the defining characterstcs of many areas of the world.

    Do somethings matter more? Sure.

    But sports absolutely "matter" just because people think they do.