With all of Pittsburgh in transports about the Steelers' return to the Super Bowl, you'd think I'd be dancing in the streets along with the rest of the Stiller Nation. But that wouldn't be me, would it?
So for what it's worth, here are the top three things that are wrong with professional sports:
1. It glorifies meaningless activity. There's a guy on the Steelers (whose nickname, I believe, is Sizeable Benjamin) who can throw an oblong object into other people's hands. He's apparently very good at this. But so freaking what? There are countless more meaningful enterprises in which human beings might engage: cure cancer, solve the energy crisis, pick up litter, care for children, read or write a book, carry on a conversation with another human being, etc., etc. Yet professional sports encourages, indeed requires, otherwise sane individuals to invest far more energy and passion in the exploits of oblong object-throwing individuals than in anything else. I'm not sure if professional sports are responsible for the bastardization of real achievement, but they sure haven't helped the cause.
2. It distorts economic and civic priorities. Years ago, I used to be a sports fan--until, within the span of several years, both the Pittsburgh Pirates (they of 18 straight losing seasons) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (they of six Super Bowl rings) extorted taxpayer money from my hometown in order to build fancy new stadiums. Their arguments were identical: if you don't help us build these things, we'll move away, which will cost the city jobs, revenue, and civic pride. To my mind, this would be equivalent to the city of Pittsburgh paying to build a Wal-Mart. With inadequate public services, underfunded libraries, no place for homeless people to sleep, collapsing roadways, filthy air and water, and pathetic public schools, we're spending taxpayer money to build stadiums for billionaires. And I sure feel proud.
3. It brings out the worst in people. Oh, I know they'll tell you that sports build character and discipline and all that, and maybe they do. But professional sports breed little but arrogant, I-don't-have-to-follow-the-rules-because-I-can-throw-an-oblong-object types of behavior a la Michael Vick. And so far as its legions of fans are concerned, the only things professional sports breed are anger, loathing, hysteria, incivility, substance and child abuse, and broken marriages. To wit: after the Steelers' last Super Bowl win, fans set fire to cars. Recently, a blogger who shall remain nameless expressed his hope that the Green Bay Packers break Sizeable Benjamin's legs on the first series of the upcoming Super Bowl. This morning, my seven-year-old son, as sweet a little fellow as you're likely to meet, was publicly berated by a shopkeeper because he happens to prefer Green Bay. Perhaps because they invest meaningless activity with apparent meaning, or perhaps because they distort our sense of justice, proportion, and fair play, professional sports turn otherwise decent people into lunatics and monsters.
So there you have it. I'm sure these words of mine will have little effect if the Steelers win (in which case thousands will trash the city) or if they lose (in which case thousands will strike their children or throw themselves off the nearest bridge). But you can't blame me for trying.