Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sports vs. Politics

It's been a long winter in the mancave. The damp air and heavy grey skies have fostered this sudden introspection like so many young poets with dank body odor and unwashed dreads in Seattle coffee shops. Now that Osama bin Laden is dead and buried at sea, I now feel safe enough to express myself to the world at large. As an International Affairs student at CU for several years, I paid rapt attention to NPR, the New York Times, CNN and the BBC. I noticed that after 4 hours of piping news into my brain, I'd feel depressed and helpless. My attention these days is on the NBA playoffs and the nascent Colorado Rockies baseball season. A game offers a controlled environment with a definite outcome: someone either wins or loses. Although the same could be said about politics, the geopolitical field is so vast and complex that no one really knows what's going on. Pundits speculate, politicians prevaricate, and bloggers bloviate all to the effect of confusing the end consumer: us. Whenever I engage in political debates, the person I'm debating and I have a sense of oppositional self-importance. We have our opinions, based on myriad media sources - but in the end we have no idea what we're talking about. In sports, we are either for or against a particular team. In baseball, you have 9 men on the field, in basketball, 5. The rules are complex, but knowable. The political field is anarchic, unquantifiable and frustrating. Only elections have a satisfying sense of gamesmanship, where candidates vie for seats based on the electorate's choices (or whoever owns the Diebold voting machines).

The last time I turned on CNN our cunning Navy Seals were offing the world's most wanted man and masses of patriotic Americans were celebrating outside the White House walls. Thus the end game of the Global War on Terror initiated by George W. That game lasted 10 years. An average baseball or basketball game is less than 3 hours, commercial breaks included (or half that time on DVR). And now that bin Laden is gone, do you really think we've ended the GWOT?
The NBA playoffs, now in their 7 game format, seem endless. But in June when the finals are finally over, a victor will emerge. Sports have few real life consequences, unless you're the guy squashed under a mob of people in a soccer stadium. You pay to get in, you get entertained for a couple hours and you leave. The athletes get rich and pumped with steroids and we read about them in the daily paper or follow them in fantasy leagues. When our team loses we are momentarily sad. When they win, we're elated. When the Rockies made it to the 2007 World Series, I had a renewed sense of childhood glee unlike anything I've ever experienced.
I still listen to the news or pick up a Sunday Times on occasion. I would argue that we'd be much happier human beings without 24/7 bombardment of negativity. The kooky and brilliant astrologer Rob Brezny wrote a book "Pronoia, the Antidote to Paranoia- How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower you with Blesssings" I saw Brezny in Boulder a few years ago on his tour to promote the book; he busted out a rap-like list of all the good things happening in the world that day that one never hears about. Although it's hard to convince a holocaust survivor that "It's all good", optimism and attention to positive thoughts are powerful medicine.
Meanwhile, I'll be looking forward to Dirk Nowitzski's next 48 point performance in an NBA playoff game, or the Rockies' Carlos Gonzales, the 2010 NL batting champion, hitting another 453 ft. homerun. These athletes won't end terrorism, get us out of the recession, pay off trillions of dollars of national debt, keep China from becoming the next world hegemon, solve immigration reform or reduce crime rates, but I'll sure have fun watching them.

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