Let’s Make Sports Fun Again


Ben Riner, Sports Editor

PING! A nifty flick of the bat sends a tennis ball sailing over the tree in the middle of “centerfield.” The lone fielder gives chase, though in vain, as a home run is practically assured. I circle the bases on the makeshift diamond in my backyard without a care in the world.

At this point in my life, I am not concerned with politics. The word “protest” means nothing to me. Sports are simply how I spend time with my friends. Thinking of those endless hours spent in the warm summer air brings back countless memories of a time when we could compete athletically without the interference of politics.

Our sporting endeavors began with baseball, but through the years, my friends and I would rotate between football, basketball, kickball, and soccer as well. All these were played out of enjoyment, with little regard for the worries and trials of “real life.”

Rain or shine, we’d be out there imitating the oddest batting stances, arguing over the wackiest rules, or making routine plays into dramatic diving catches. After school, I’d race through my homework in an effort to play as much as possible before dark. Our backyards became the understood meeting place on any given day.

But that was back before a new era dawned in professional sports.

You’d have to live under a rock (literally) not to realize what has happened to the sports world these days. To put it bluntly, it’s a tragedy. You cannot turn on any sports broadcast or talk show without hearing about the recurring anthem protests. These, regardless of intention, have become like a cancer to not only the NFL, but the entire sports community. And no matter your opinion of them, at some point, enough has to be enough.

Who, though, is really at fault for the attention these protests have gathered? In my opinion, the media and society as a whole deserve the majority of the blame. Without such a sharp focus on the situation, it likely would have dissipated soon after the ordeal began early last NFL season. Also, overanalyzing simple comments made by players, coaches, and owners alike has led to massive confusion and outrage. The result, however, is unchangeable.

The sports world has undoubtedly been politicized, just like everything else in society. There used to be a time, as I remember, when we played sports simply for the love of the game. It easily makes me long for the days when team loyalties were all that separated and distinguished sports fans.  Regardless of these loyalties, sports had a unifying effect unlike anything else in society. It was what we engaged in to get away from the trials and divisions that so often could plague our society.

So, to paraphrase Bryce Harper, this is my plea. Let’s “make sports fun again,” and see if we can use these contests to escape divisiveness once more.