Sunday mornings are for The New York Times, but it's a bit jarring when the first stories one reads feature a steady stream of murder, rape, drug abuse, and robbery sprees. Even more jarring is the fact that I always begin with the sports section.
I am constantly justifying my enthusiasm for sports, unshared by many in my extended circle of friends and family, many of whom are musical-theatre snobs or pseudo-intellectuals or both. They look down on sports as the preserve of insufficiently evolved alpha males (and a few alpha females), undeserving of the attention (and certainly the money) lavished upon it. I counter with an argument that sports (and maybe politics) provide the only dependable sources of actual narrative excitement. Each game provides a classic plot: beginning, middle, and end. And whereas movies and television shows, no matter how well done, are fundamentally predictable--except "Breaking Bad," but I digress--sports constantly surprise. No matter how heavily favored one team is, the games still must be played, and the underdogs occasionally triumph.
So it's depressing when the front page of the Sunday sports pages are dominated by stories of a Kansas City Chiefs linebacker killing himself after shooting his girlfriend to death; of the prevalence of Adderall as a new performance-enhancer of choice among NFL players; of a quartet of Rugers University basketball players busted for a series of dormitory robberies. In what passes for an "uplifting" story, Kathy Redmond, has devoted her life to combating the culture of sexual abuse that exists among collegiate athletes--a commitment she developed in response to her own rape at the hands of a Nebraska football player in the early 90's.
I'm not likely to abandon an enthusiasm for sports any time soon. But the constant drumbeat of crime and depravity is disheartening. True, I'm not a child, and I have no need of athletic heroes to look up to, but wouldn't it be nice to know that at least a FEW of these guys were worthy of such admiration? That some are blessed with gifts of character to match their obvious physical gifts?
I'm sure some are. It's sad, though, when reading about, say, Robert Griffin III--by all accounts a delightful human being as well as a spectacular athlete--to find oneself wondering how long it'll be before we discover he's running a child-prostitution ring in Malaysia. Many times bitten, many times shy.