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Sports matters to just about all



Published: Wed, August 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



I had a college professor who used to ask me what I was going to do with my life after I'm a sportswriter.

"You need to write about something that matters," he'd say.

I never understood what he was talking about. Still don't.

No one I know ever remembers stories about new zoning ordinances in Campbell or the summer lawn mowing policy in Youngstown. But they'll sure as heck remember when Mooney won the state championship in 1973 or that YSU's Dike Beede invented the penalty flag.

Sports fans remember this stuff.

Just this week I heard my brother reminiscing about his intramural flag football championship. Which is pathetic enough until you realize it happened seven years ago.

Sports matter. That's why we write about them.

I've never passed by a refrigerator and read a story about city hall's new cell phone usage law. But I have passed by a refrigerator with a story about a high school game that happened two years ago.

I've even met people who kept every box score from high school that had their name in it.

Sports teach us things.

"No kidding," some of you will say. "Discipline, teamwork, unselfishness, blah, blah, blah."

Yeah, those are good. But that's not what I'm talking about.

Sports teaches: Since many readers are beginning school this week, I'd like to pass on the inane, esoteric things sports teach us.

Things you learn just by attending public schools. (You learn the same lessons at parochial schools, of course, along with others. Like how to respond to recruiting accusations, for instance.)

Things you pick up by being the starting quarterback or riding the pine for the lacrosse team. Each sport teaches something different.

For instance, football teaches you that moms aren't always fair. Some of you are 50 years old and saying, "I could have been great, but my mom never signed my permission slip. Afraid I would get hurt."

Baseball teaches you that no one pays attention in health class. If you're paying attention now: chewing tobacco gives you cancer. So stop it -- and quit scratching yourself.

Swimming teaches you how to shave your chest. And your legs. And your eyebrows. Thankfully, these are lessons I never learned.

Soccer teaches you that people in high school can be mean for stupid reasons. (So does band, by the way.)

Cross country teaches you that vomiting can be a source of pride. (Runners. They're an interesting bunch.)

Tennis teaches you that some men just won't give up wearing short shorts. (For the sake of us all, please stop.)

Wrestling teaches you that basketball players make bad wrestlers -- and vice versa.

Golf teaches you how to swear. Actually, middle school teaches you how to swear. Golf just makes you good at it.

Life's essentials: There are others, but you get the point. And if you didn't, you only need to pick up the sports page to see that sports teaches many of the things you need to know about life: finances (NFL referees), crime (Baltimore Ravens), taxes (MLB), love (Red Sox fans), hate (Red Sox fans).

Put them together and you learn: if you have enough finances, you can commit crimes and people forgive you -- but you still have to pay taxes.

And the Red Sox break your heart.

Heck, there's even the seven deadly sins: pride (Pedro Martinez), envy (Phil Mickelson) and gluttony (Bartolo Colon), lust (Shawn Kemp), anger (Ray Lewis) and sloth (Robert Traylor) and greed (pick your favorite).

So for those of you who still doubt that sports matter, take a look around. Watch how it bridges generational gaps. Watch how it makes a difference in lives. Watch how it drives us crazy.

Who knows? You just might learn something.

XJoe Scalzo is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at scalzo@vindy.com.




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