Monday, January 17, 2011

Sports: Blessed Distraction

Posted By on Mon, Jan 17, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Sports are distraction. Nothing more. However much time we devote to our teams and athletes of choice, however much money we spend on watching games, however much we read (or write) on the subject ... sports are distraction.

Over the last 10 days, I'e found myself yearning for distraction, eager to find a game to draw my attention away from the dreadful event of January 8th, when congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was attacked by a gun-wielding lunatic and six of Giffords' supporters died before they should have. Giffords' slow and brave recovery from a bullet wound to her head is an inspiring reminder that decency and hope will prevail, but also a reminder of the depths man can reach, even on a sunny Saturday morning in Arizona.

So I find distractions. The Memphis Tigers' confounding season is doing a little more than distracting many local basketball fans, a team expected to win a game or two in the NCAA tournament now on the fast track for another NIT appearance. The Grizzlies, likewise, show promise one week by whipping the world champions, then go through the motions in a loss to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. Inconsistency will make a sports fan nuts, but it serves as a decent distraction, no?

The NFL playoffs have been fun, if confounding in their own right. A team with a losing record gets to host the reigning Super Bowl champions (a team with four more wins, representing one-fourth of an entire season) ... and beats them? This is good, right? And how about this for an astounding fact: Despite a rivalry that dates back almost 90 years, this Sunday will be the first time the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers have played for an NFL or NFC championship. And the possibility exists for each conference's lowest seed facing each other in the Super Bowl.

My favorite day of the football season -- college or pro -- is this Sunday. Hall of Fame coach John Madden said there was no game a team wanted to win more desperately -- and no game more painful to lose -- than the conference title game, a ticket to the Super Bowl on the line. Makes for some great football when every last player is desperate. It's easy to be distracted when games are played with passion.

Last Saturday, I covered the Tigers' win over Marshall at FedExForum, went home for some family time, then took my wife and two daughters to FEF to watch the Grizzlies-Mavericks game. In between, I took advantage of the mild temperatures by throwing batting practice to one of my daughters and two of her friends. You could say it was a day of distraction, the dribble of a basketball echoing in my ears and baseball in January giving me hope for an early arrival of my good friend, Spring.

click to enlarge obama-steelers-jersey.jpg

Last Wednesday in Tucson, President Barack Obama had one of his more inspiring days since taking office two years ago. With distractions turned off long enough for the entire country to listen, Obama saluted 9-year-old shooting victim Christina Green in saying what we all feel today: "I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it." We can only hope that the horror of a life taken so young might be translated into a rallying cry for a new way of thinking, a spirit that can lead us to a better, happier place. I'll be thinking of Christina Green for a long time, even amid my distractions.

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