After horrible tragedies, patronizing sportwriters are guaranteed to remind us that sports don't really matter
It's hard to say it much better or more concisely. Can't say I was expecting that from old Timmy. In any case, though I can't improve on McCarver's take, I think it's worthwhile to really look at the crap Pearlman's feeding us here.
EDIT: Looking now at the actual "Tim McCarver" Twitter feed it's pretty obviously a fake McCarver. Damn. I kind of wished it were real. I like T Mac.
I want to scream.
I want to fly to Knoxville, stand in the center of the of the University of Tennessee campus and scream, "Look at this!"
I want to hold up a page from Thursday's New York Times -- the one featuring this image of Lionel Michaud. It is, without question, the most disturbing photograph I have ever seen. Michaud is sitting on a stoop in the central morgue in Port-au-Prince, surrounded by dozens of lifeless bodies. On his knee rests his 10-month-old daughter, Christian. She is dead. Michaud's wife, Lormeny Nathalie, is dead, too.
His head is in his right hand.
His family is gone.
His world is destroyed.
And all you can think about is Lane Kiffin?
Last things first: I sincerely doubt that even the most dedicated Tennessee fan is thinking about nothing but Lane Kiffin right now. Food, beer, chicks, foam fingers, and maybe in some far reach of his mind, academics are also probably weighing on hypothetical single-minded UT fan's mind right now as well.
But more seriously, what the fuck is Jeff Pearlman trying to pull here? You're going to take an example of human suffering and try to make us view sports through that lens by using an example of extreme specificity? GMAB. Pearlman over the last few weeks has written a series of handwringing blog posts and articles about the myriad atrocities of the sports world.
Is it fair to go up to him with a picture of the family of any number of the people in America who die every day and say to him, "HOW DARE YOU WRITE THIS ARTICLE BEMOANING THE LACK OF ETHICS OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES? LOOK AT THIS FAMILY WHO HAS LOST THEIR SON TO GANG VIOLENCE?"
And how far do we extend this line of thinking? Can no sports fan be upset about anything because of The Holocaust? Or The Spanish Inquisition? Or Beowulf's death at the hands of a dragon lo these many years?
I don't mean to trivialize the Haitian tragedy, but let's face it--No one in the entire world would ever say Lane Kiffin leaving Tennessee is a bigger tragedy than the Haitian earthquake. No one. Not even your accursed Tennessee fans, Jeff.
Please, do the world a simple favor: Find the nearest mirror and look at yourself. Wipe off the white-and-orange face paint, remove the goofy hat, slip out of the Peyton Manning jersey, turn down Rocky Top, find a quiet place -- and take a good glance.
What do you see?
They probably see someone who uses sports as a way to escape from the troubles of the real world who feel rightly let down when someone they admire does something they consider dishonest. Sound familiar, Jeff?
Immediately following Kiffin's press conference to announce his departure for USC on Tuesday evening, a mob of approximately 500 people gathered on campus. According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, fire was set to a tattered mattress and a handful of Tennessee T-shirts. The participants were hoping to catch Kiffin on his way out of town, to presumably do more than merely talk.
The coach was driven home by university police officers, and a Knox County deputy was assigned to protect him. "We assured (Kiffin)," said sherriff Jimmy Jones, "that there would be somebody close."
Yes. This is absurd by any standards and is par for the course in college football--a sad truth we should all be concerned about to some extent. It has absolutely nothing to do with the earthquake in Haiti.
In the ensuing days, Vols message boards have been overtaken by people tearing into Kiffin. Tearing into Kiffin's wife. Wishing him personal harm and never-ending misery. He is, they believe, the anti-Christ -- an evil, self-absorbed man who eats young children and secretly plots world domination from the balcony of his sadistic lair.
When, exactly, did we start reaching such a low? When did sports go from serving as a mere diversion (entertainment, enjoyment, fun), to being a way of life ... an actual barometer of a community's happiness or grief? When did the career decision (albeit, awkwardly expressed) of a moderately successful 34-year-old football coach begin to matter so much?
A long, long fucking time ago, Jeff. A long fucking time ago. Long before your beloved baseball of the 1970's and 1980's. A long fucking time ago. Ask Hank Aaron about the letters he used to get about an arbitrary home run total. Read accounts of Roger Maris's treatment at the hands of reporters and fans outraged he would dare to break a single season home run total. To say nothing of college football fans--look: is it too much to ask of a guy writing a MSM article about the culture of college football to have some perspective w/r/t the history of the culture of college football?
As a boy growing up in small town of Mahopac, N.Y., my parents would try and comfort me following Little League losses by saying, "It's just a game -- keep things in perspective" Then we'd get ice cream. The lesson took some time to sink in, but once it did, I never forgot it.
Sports have always been important in my life, but primarily as a way to have fun. Heck, that's when they're at their absolute best: Your day at work stunk, your spouse is in a bad mood, the kid's got the flu -- thank god LeBron vs. D-Wade is on at 8 tonight. Pass the popcorn, ease the mind.
Yup. And you know better than ever that when the thing you use as diversion becomes tainted by something, the customary reaction is to whine like a baby and throw a temper tantrum
But...you know...it's different when...uh...Tennessee fans do it. Because of Haiti? I guess?
Having spent two-and-a-half years of my career in Tennessee, I was an unfortunate firsthand witness to the lunacy that is SEC football. During the time I was a writer at The Tennessean in Nashville, Peyton Manning had the audacity to choose to attend Tennessee over his father's alma mater, Ole Miss. In the months following the announcement, the Manning family was besieged with vicious hate mail from Rebel backers -- all because an 18-year-old kid with the quirky ability to effectively hurl a pig's skin through the air opted for the university of his choice.
Oh no...my mistake. It's because Jeff lived in Tennesse. So he had an up close and personal view of how superior he is emotionally to college football fans. Call it the Jay Mariotti factor.
Pathetic -- but not surprising.
Pathetic. But not surprising.
There is a place in this country for sports. An important place. The lessons of athletics can be invaluable, the bonds everlasting. But when a city reacts to the fleeing of a football coach with greater dismay than the loss of thousands of lives, something has gone wrong.
I would generally agree with this. People put too much importance on sports. Sports are a form of entertainment. They sometimes hold sentimental value to the people who really love them, and they should. But they shouldn't cause anyone to froth at the mouth like a raving lunatic about how they represent something bigger than themselves.
You know...like how they represent something about a devastating earthquake in Haiti