A Fair Conversation About Sports

By Michael Hawkins

I want to consider five sports. One is loved around the world for some mysterious reason and the other four are the major ones in the U.S.: soccer, basketball, football, baseball, hockey.

Soccer – Does anyone understand this? It’s utterly perplexing, isn’t it? This is the most popular sport in the world yet it manages to be the most boring. Sure, I get the poorer people of the world playing it because it is so relatively cheap, but what is everyone else’s excuse? What about the organizations with all their money? Surely millions of dollars are not worth such immense boredom. And the players! They take dives more than Michael Phelps. “Ouchie, ouchie, my knee! This is the worst injury anyone has ever had! Ever! …oh, the ref has made his call and play is continuing? Well then, I guess I’m fine.” Sissies.

Basketball – Is there a sport where the final minutes are more boring than this (besides soccer)? Specifically, the NBA has royally screwed up the final two minutes of any close game. Here are the final plays from any given NBA game that is moderately close: foul, foul, time out, time out, foul, foul, TV time out, foul, TV time out, foul, foul, gun fight, foul, foul, time out, foul, game over.

Football – This is getting warmer, but still misses the mark a little, especially where the NFL is concerned. First of all, stop throwing so many flags. Some of the most exciting plays I’ve ever seen have been ruined because some jackass threw a flag. And roughing the passer? It’s football. Roger Goodell really messed this one up in recent years. But has there been a worse commissioner? For any sport? Ever? Maybe David Stern. Of course, to be fair, it should be noted that the way each guy has made his league into a matter of playing the clock – not anything remotely close to athletics – is equally terrible.

Baseball – Here we go. America’s pastime. Is it 0-0 in the ninth? Well, unlike soccer, this is an exciting score. It means there’s probably been a pitcher’s duel going on. Oh, is it 10-9 in the ninth? Who doesn’t love a slugfest? And how about the constant spectacular defense at the highest level? Now if only Bug Selig could get a real salary cap going.

Hockey – We have a winner. This is the most underrated sport around. Those sissy dives in soccer? Go to the box for two minutes. The constant time outs and clock management in the NBA? No problem. Teams only get one timeout per game. Hitting a guy too hard? There are protections so guys don’t get hurt, but they aren’t as silly as what Roger Goodell has done in the NFL. And do search for the YouTube video titled “Milan Lucic hits Mike Van Ryn through the Glass”.

And the final two minutes of a hockey game cannot be ignored. These are the most exciting minutes in sports. The flurry of shots, the fast pace, the pulled goalie. Nothing can beat the end of a close hockey game.

But of course, the biggest complaint people raise about the sport is fighting. First, no one seems to want to watch college hockey where fighting is non-existent, so one has to question the validity of this issue in terms of why people refuse to watch the NHL. Second, the fighting isn’t an arbitrary show of aggression. It’s a demonstration of passion – passion to fight for one’s team, passion to win the game. What’s more, it keeps things in check. Fighting is counter-intuitively what helps to keep the play clean.

There you have it. This assessment should be regarded as authoritative and objective. Any dissent is definitively wrong – especially if that dissent contends that any of this article is mere opinion about something relatively trivial.

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