1. BASKETBALL. File this under “all eggs in one precarious basket” or “all skill, no will”.
2. BASEBALL. Alex Rodriguez on the heels of the Yankees’ World Series victory, “This is the reason I’ve jammed syringes in my ass cheeks all these years.” My fondness for baseball has ebbed. How do enthusiasts stomach the gross imbalance in teams’ payrolls? Granted, paying big bucks doesn’t guarantee a title, but not paying it pretty much guarantees having no chance (the TB Rays last year were an anomaly). The Yankees’ payroll is greater than three other teams combined. If the U.S. is a meritocracy, and baseball is America’s national past time, shouldn’t baseball at least pretend to be somewhat of a meritocracy and institute a salary cap?
3. FOOTBALL. There’s lots of evidence that football has surpassed baseball as the nation’s favorite sport. Just when you thought we couldn’t become even more desensitized to violence. I like watching football although the games take way too long. The challenges, replays, and endless commercials are just brutal. Not sure what I’d do without ESPN highlights. I’ve been intrigued by the recent scientific research and related congressional hearings on the frequency of brain damage among too many NFL veterans. No one should be surprised that a game based upon speed and intense physical contact leads to serious health problems later in life. But here’s a question I’ve never heard asked. As a fan who watches am I complicit in these player’s shorter life spans and reduced quality of life? Purists say expanding the protection that additional equipment and rules can provide takes away from the essence of the sport. I say improve the equipment and tighten the rules as soon as possible so I can watch ESPN highlights free of ethical self-doubt.
4. RUNNING. Like me I’m sure, you were enthralled by Meb Keflezighi’s New York City Marathon victory two Sunday’s ago. First American to win in 27 years. Wore a “USA” singlet and wrapped himself in an American flag afterwards. I can appreciate Meb’s patriotism. Born in war-torn Eritrea, he grew up in San Diego and starred at UCLA. He deeply appreciates the opportunities he’s been provided as a US citizen. So I don’t begrudge Meb wearing his nationality on his sleeve, but I wonder why the rest of us seem so keen on mixing athletics and nationalism. Post-race some questioned whether it was a “true” American victory since Meb was born in East Africa like a disproportionate number of the world’s best runners. Others said it represented a clear resurgence in American long distance running and look for additional wins for the red, white, and blue. Why can’t we just appreciate elite long distance running as simple, pure, and beautiful without all the nationalism? I understand Ethiopians immense pride in Derartu Tulu’s inspiring victory in the women’s race because Ethiopia is so poor and people struggle mightily, but I don’t understand the ways people from developed countries equate national greatness with something like marathon times. What does having the world’s fastest runner in New York in a Sunday in late October or the fastest swimmer in Beijing in August have to do with national greatness? If national greatness is a zero-sum game, wouldn’t it make more sense to compare the relative health of average citizens, or every countries environmental footprint, or relative quality of life more generally? Like Meb, I deeply appreciate the privileges my US citizenship provides, but don’t expect me to be rockin’ the USA singlet when I win the NY City marathon.
5. GOLF. Like me I’m sure, you took advantage of the 13-16 hour time difference to take in a few minutes of the Shanghai Open (my name for it) last Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Two seriously disturbing happenings to report, three if you include my invitation apparently being lost in the mail. The Chinese are slowly learning about golf etiquette. Last year they walked right up to the edge of the greens and routinely invaded the personal space of the players which strikes me as funny. This year they roped things off. Problem solved. This year’s problem is far more heinous. I kid you not, effing billboards in the fairway. While watching people putt you can’t help but notice billboards for some damn Chinese products in the background. My fear is this spreads. I predict 22nd century historians will single this decision out as the critical moment civilization began it’s inexorable decline. Damn all of you Chinese tournament/marketing directors. May your lives be one endless double bogey. While that’s my sign of the apocalypse, the players would point to the incessant camera lenses and ringing cell phones they had to contend with this year. While it’s hard to feel sorry for guys who got as much as six figures for showing up, here’s a quote that explains a hell of a lot about global politics and life at the beginning of the 21st century. “Yeah, I know the rules because I play, too,” said one Shanghainese man in Tiger’s gallery after being reprimanded by a marshal for talking on the phone. “I just forgot to turn it off. It was an important customer, so I had to take the call.” An important customer. An effing important customer. Now I understand the woman in church whose phone has gone off the last few Sundays, students whose phones go off in class, the guy at the movie theatre, the woman at the concert, important customers. Finally a way forward in defining what form electronic etiquette should take. It’s okay to take calls whenever, wherever, as long as it’s an important customer. Shanghainese man, may your life be a perpetual triple bogey.
Postscript. Busy weekend. Anyone catch the score of the Washington-UCLA game Saturday? Also, I think I’m going to pull the plug on the “Week that Was”. Just didn’t feel it was contributing much. No juice. Then again, maybe I just want to be able to jump out of the pool after 500 meters and not feel the collective dismay of my burgeoning readership. I will now commence slacking in private. More seriously, rest assured, I will continue swimming, cycling, and running a few times each week until the body gives out and I’m sure I’ll write about those activities on occasion.