MAD DOG: Trying to Be a Good Sport

I'm not a sports guy. There, I've said it. You can call me unAmerican, half a man, and Alan Alda if you like, I'm still not going to enter a twelve-step program. Well, not one for sports, anyway.I know I'm in a minority here. After all, following sports is our national pastime. Well, after stockpiling water, food, and plenty of Danielle Steele novels just in case everything really does melt down on January 1st. There are magazines devoted to it, cable channels dedicated to it, and divorce papers based on it. This is big stuff.It's amazing how much time people spend with sports -- watching them on TV, reading about them in the newspaper, and shopping for paint to slather on their bodies so they can honestly call themselves a fan when they go to a live game. Yet as much fun as all that sounds, I have to say that on my list of favorite things to do, sports falls somewhere between watching a Brooke Shields retrospective and moving next door to Slobodan Milosevic.It's not that I don't like playing sports, it's that the idea of watching and following them seems like, well, a strange way to use up my precious natural resources. The concept of voluntarily spending a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon huddled in front of a TV watching grown men try to hit a little white ball into a hole in the ground while I'm wiping beer from my chin and adding to that orange Cheetos residue build-up on the Barcalounger is completely foreign to me.The thought of reading the sports section before the news section -- or even the horoscope -- is inconceivable. And the very idea that I would consider using up those few working neurons I have left by memorizing player's names, batting averages, rushing yards, and the personal statistics of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders they've personally auditioned during halftime when I barely have enough available to keep my social security number and multiplication tables up there is, uh, what was I saying again?Maybe like drinking scotch, eating caviar, and listening to Fran Drescher without losing your Tuna Helper, following sports is an acquired taste. Maybe I need to sit down and spend an afternoon watching professional bowling to appreciate how exciting it is to *yawn* see a ball roll down an alley. Again. And again. And again.Perhaps I need to experience a few more televised baseball games so I can gain a better understanding of just how relaxing those catnaps in between pitches can be. And maybe -- just maybe -- I haven't seen enough basketball to be appreciative of the fact that these guys are earning as much money in a year as Bill Gates does in a minute so they can run around -- are you ready for this? -- trying to toss a ball into a basket.Face it, sports without participation is like hearing about someone else having sex -- I'm happy for them but it's not any fun if I'm not personally involved. Maybe the attraction is that since most people will never get the chance to participate on a professional level (well, in sports anyway), watching makes them feel like they're a part of it. Especially since they can do it without having to deal with the bad aspects, like rigorous year-round training, constant pain, intense pressure to perform, having to decide which supermodel to ask out tonight, and wracking ones brain trying to figure out how in the world you're going to survive on a lousy $5 million a year.There's no question most of us want a taste of fame and notoriety. Just look at the people who appear on shows like Jenny Jones and Jerry Springer. Okay, don't look too hard or you might get depressed. Every day they get on national TV and let the world watch as their girlfriends admit to having had sex with their brother, mother, hamster, and priest. Anything to get their fleeting taste of fame (and one hell of a video to show the grandchildren).Why don't sports nuts get the same opportunity? Don't you think there are plenty of men and women who would go for their moment of gusto by putting on some hockey gear, praying to the god of strong teeth, and wobbling down the rink picturing him or herself as Wayne Gretsky reincarnated (when they know full well they're more like Wayne from Wayne's World)?"Coming up next, Jack Splat, an overweight, out of shape accountant from Duluth, Minnesota who has trouble lifting his remote without panting. He'll be the guest quarterback for the Oakland Raiders when they meet the Miami Dolphins on this week's edition of 'Who's Got the Balls?'."Think about it. It would be an opportunity to get on the field and play with the big boys. A chance to prove to your father once and for all that you're not a sissy-boy, even if you would rather sip white wine than chug a Bud. And who know, you might even score the winning points! Okay, even this fantasy has its limits.But no matter how you look at it you would get your fifteen minutes -- or at least fifteen seconds -- of fame. And probably a few bucks to boot. Or at least a case of Turtle Wax as a consolation prize. But best of all you'd have the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream. Well, as long as you don't mind that it may be at the expense of spending the rest of your life in traction. Come to think of it, that Cheeto-stained Barcalounger doesn't sound so bad after all, now does it?

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