Arts & Entertainment, Sports

Picking Splinters: Gimme The Good Stuff

Sometimes I just think the world of sports is messed up.

I’m not just talking about the illogical stuff — like the Orioles firing manager Sam Perlozzo only to temporarily replace him with bullpen coach Dave Trembley. This when the bullpen perhaps has failed the team worst of all en route to a record of 29-40 heading into Tuesday.

I’m not just talking about the unusually odd either — like when Redskins’ top draft choice LaRon Landry missed time at last week’s minicamp after he was shot in the groin by a teammate during a “team-building” game of paintball.

I’m talking about strip club shootings. I’m talking about dog fighting. I’m talking about cheaters and drug users and intoxicated drivers.

Forget those first items about Trembley and Landry. Those are just bizarre, like an episode of “Jerry Springer” during sweeps week … or any week. This other stuff is the sort that makes it onto “America’s Most Wanted.” And it’s this felony-caliber material that has comprised most of the big sports headlines of late.

Maybe this is another instance of my semi-regular residency in the Ivory Tower of sports journalism, but this streak has me wondering — Is this news the best we’ve got?

It’s not that Michael Vick’s dogfighting dacha isn’t news, but do we really need to follow it so closely? Let’s think outside of convention for a second.

It’s no secret that people crave bad news. We like the rich and famous, but not nearly as much as when they fall on their faces. If it bleeds, it leads for a reason. Namely because readers buy it. The paparazzi wouldn’t stalk celebs if consumers didn’t suck up their dirt in the supermarket checkout line. And the sports media is following suit. You only have to look at a segment on ESPN devoted to Paris Hilton’s return to prison to see that.

It feels like the bar is getting lower and lower and rather than question the trend, everyone is doing the limbo to try to get under it.

But what if we forgot about the villains every once and a while and focused on the heroes a little more. What if we put a hold on the head cases and rolled more role models. Role models like Jason Simmons of the Houston Texans.

When Ahman Green came over from the Packers to the Texans he wanted to “buy” the No. 30 jersey (Green’s lucky number with Green Bay) away from the veteran Simmons. Instead of asking for a Rolex, or a Range Rover or enough cash to “make it rain,” Simmons told Green to cough up a downpayment so a single-parent family could purchase a new home.

Yeah, that’s a great idea. And yeah, that’s a great story. Thank God that Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly, who is great at unearthing these sort of gems, took the time, and the ink, to share it.

I feel that the planet established long ago that the sports world is one of entertainment. It’s about exchanging money to watch athletes play games that we loved as children, and play them better than we could ever imagine. For saps like me, there are other elements of enjoyment in athletics: the thrill of victory, working with teammates towards a common goal, building character through competition, expounding anecdotes from games into anthologies of life lessons bearing a title prefixed by “Chicken Soup.” There is a value to stories like Reilly’s that I truly believe makes this world a better place … at least from up here on my ivory perch.

This other stuff — which I’ll summarize under the all-encompassing title of “The Bengals” — does this really even matter?

Can you name the last druggie whose dime-bag bust was covered on the six o’clock news? How about the last businessman in your city to get bagged on a DUI? I doubt it. But when you switch those names with star athletes, we lap it up. This is excitement for most people. This is entertainment. I, however, think we can do without it.

Hard news about killers and warlords and terrorists and presidential debates — that affects our lives and those of our families. That’s important. Sports are entertainment. They are a luxury. Here we can afford to look away from this stuff and onto something more worthwhile. So why don’t we?

If we cut back on the coverage of some of these celebrity criminals, what’s the worst that can happen? A bad week for someone’s fantasy football team? But if we shine the spotlight in a different direction, onto stories like that of Green and Simmons, then who knows what else we might find.