By Herman Sillas
The first thing I read in the morning is my newspaper’s sport section. I check scores and stories of my favorite teams. Then I see what sports events will be on TV that day. Yes, I am a sports addict.
My addiction came from my youth. See, as a boy, I played America’s playground games, like basketball, baseball and touch football. Each sport had its season, and my buddies and I formed teams to compete in the playground. Our parents never came to watch us. In fact nobody watched us play; we just played.
But as a parent in the 1970s, my generation and I watched our children play soccer on Saturday mornings. Soccer appealed to both genders. I predicted soccer would become America’s most popular sport. I believed that the young players would become fans and encourage their children to play soccer. They did. Today, pick any Saturday and visit a park. Soccer leagues are everywhere and embrace the young fans and players.
At the beginning of every professional soccer game, each player walks out on the field holding the hand of a youngster. What other sport does that? Football teams take the field like a charging buffalo herd threatening the life of anyone standing in its way; no place for children there. Baseball allows a bat-boy or girl. Basketball has no room for kids. Soccer players can be any age or size. If you can kick a ball, you can play.
Unfortunately, scandals have plagued sports over the years. Drug use became a way of life for some athletes because some drugs enhanced their ability to perform on the field. Professional baseball dealt with players with Popeye forearms that blasted home runs like never before. Professional football also has had drug-enhanced muscle men who played as if possessed. They were. These guys caused broken bones, necks, busted noses and black eyes. Now all professional athletes have been advised “if you use drugs, you are gone.”
But a different type of scandal came to light after this year’s Super Bowl. It appears that the winner, the New England Patriots, intentionally deflated footballs so that their quarterback would have an advantage in throwing the ball in freezing weather. The Patriots cheated, but they were allowed to keep their victory and money. Forfeiture of the game was never considered.
Is nothing sacred? In soccer, it appears that top-ranking officials in FIFA received bribes for their votes to select the location for the World Cup that occurs every four years. Folks, we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars changing hands under the table and being hidden from authorities and the public. Officials involved apparently sold their votes on a variety of issues. Illicit money went into the pockets of those overseeing this worldly sport, while millions of fans throughout the world watched the games. Do I care? Sure I do. Why can’t sports to be like they were when I played them as a boy? Is that too much to ask as an adult? Is there no sport left untainted?
I initially thought I had one—fishing. No one has ever tried to bribe me when I fish. No fisherman that I know of has taken drugs believing it will enhance his ability to catch fish. But the more I thought about this, I realized fishing is based on deception. We hide our hook with bait that we believe will entice fish to bite. We use smaller fish as sacrifices for larger fish. Our whole sport is based upon bait and switch. No wonder we fishermen lose so often. And when we win, we eat the loser.
Herman Sillas can be found most weekend mornings fishing at the San Clemente Pier. He may be reached at email@example.com