Sports is like life

At last I can look back, not at my flings with sports and outdoors, both futile and fulfilled, but at just the most recent year of Juneau’s athletes, competitions, events and fans.

That will be done to the right of this column, today and tomorrow.

Indoors and out, 2011 held its milestones, achievements, disappointments, anticipations, romances, injustices, awards, deaths, sensationalisms and secrets.

Sounds a lot like life doesn’t it?

Sports is a lot like life. It can build character, reshape lives, and bring whole communities together.

It can also destroy the good names that have helped build the foundations of a university and scar forever a child’s view of his/her own worth.

Sports, alone, has been the mainstay of civilizations.

Sports, unfortunately, requires you and I to contribute and sometimes that is when sports become twisted.

We have been fed the images and styling’s of the scandals of Tiger Woods whose role model for black American youth and his model wife where not enough to keep his hole-in-one singular. Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky and Syracuse’s Bernie Fine are awaiting sexual assault trials.

A 2010 study by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency found that coaches are the No. 1 influence on the lives of youths involved in sport and any abuse of that trust – consensual or not – is likely to have a long-term negative impact on the athlete involved.

Yet the national horror of these offenses is also in our own backyard. My brief stint as a cops and courts reporter illuminated that fact to me and introduced me to a world in which victims can be re-victimized in the system, yet they long to speak out.

At a recent high school championship event a woman approached me and handed me a note. Inside it said I had failed in my duties as a reporter when covering her foster daughters sexual abuse case and that I should go up and apologize to her daughter at this moment.

Really? In the middle of the championship game?

Another woman asked that I not attend any of her friend’s daughter’s abuse cases. At one point a District Attorney asked me not to cover an abuse case, as the victim was being terrorized at school.

Athletes are not immune to abuse because their bodies are finely tuned machines, nor because they know an entire playbook, nor because they have gold medals.

Another SAM (Sexual Abuse of a Minor) has mentioned in interviews her abuse started while a 10-year-old soccer player.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. That is potentially five girls on every 20-member soccer squad, two boys on every 12-player basketball team.

That was a somber beginning note to my column because I want you to realize that sports is not the savior of man kind, nor its downfall, but is just another ingredient of life.

Humans have enjoyed activities since, well, forever.

Can we not doubt that early ethnographic and archaeological evidences, such as cave drawings of slain sabertooths, were a form of tally, a way to keep score of who gets the clan leader’s daughter (or son, think progressively) as mate.

The Greek Olympic Games, the Eskimos on the ice floes, the aborigines in the desert, the bearers of shrunken heads tied around their waists like some heavyweight championship belt. All sports and life.

Soccer has origins dating back over 3,000 years. Evidence has shown some type of organized activity resembling China’s “kicking the ball” and resembling football that was played, strike-free no less, during the 2nd century BC in the reign of the Han Dynasty. From soccer begat rugby, which begat Gaelic football and Canadian football and Australian football until, as more running replaced kicking, the 1820 inter-mural sport American football played at prestigious New England universities.

Golf was spread by war. It originated as land hockey play in Flanders in the middle ages. The story goes that three Scotsmen fighting in a French regiment saw the activity and took it back to Scotland where today’s game took hold. Kings, queens and other royalty played and allowed commoners to participate in specific public spaces. Mary Queen of Scotts is noted as one of the first female golfers (I know there is a head joke in here somewhere, something about taking two strokes).

Basketball goes back to 1891 when Canadian physical education instructor James Naismith, teaching at McGill University and Springfield College, thought it was not enough to torture the un-athletic with dodge ball pepperings, but rather to put them to even more cumbersome tasks of putting a heavy ball into a small oval in the sky… in shorts… in front of their peers… with no endorsement deals.

America’s national pastime is ours for only two centuries. The English played it first and gave it the wonderfully, all-inclusive name of “Rounders.” A Pittsfield, Massachusetts bylaw from 1791 forbid the game to be played within 80 yards of the town hall. Modern rules began in 1845 and in 1875 “the show” league began and exists today.

Hockey dates to 4000 years ago, though not always on ice. Field hockey was played before the birth of Christ. That “ball and stick” game was played in ancient Rome, Scotland, Egypt and South America. I tend to think that very first BC winter hockey league was terminated due to the ice age, which can kind of mess up the following year’s draft picks.

Sports media has history too. Before man learned to speak he crossed his T’s in sand and dotted I’s on stone and gathered in large groups in caves to watch colorful paintings appear on walls. Grunting begat multiple words in succession and led to talk show hosts who revert to grunting or screaming to make their multiple words seem significant.

Black and white newsprint was hoisted high into the air by bellicose little rag tag newsboys who shouted out the winnings or losing’s of the local heroes. This begat glorification in colorful print, which has now become the afterthought of instant resolution image and verbiage on line.

The first radio and television broadcasts that attracted the largest group of listeners and observers were sports. Broadcasting media help popularize spectator sports, which in turn begat advertizing, which in turn spawned economic advancement for all involved except the commoner skipping work to attend an event.

Yet in this madness we have times where we are more than sports.

When our JDHS softball teams wear all pink in support of breast cancer awareness or the TMHS football team donates gate proceeds to domestic violence awareness, or the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament is selected into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, or Eaglecrest helps a child to ski, or former grads succeed at college and become doctors or lawyers or healthcare providers or coaches or parents… and they help put an end to abuse.


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