Monday, December 29, 2008

A Manifesto of Sorts

Sports are important.

No, sports will not cure cancer, create peace on earth, balance the federal budget, or pay your mortgage. This does not, however, mean they should be thrown in the pile with board games, popular music, or other common diversions.

Sport draws people across all walks of life in ways politicians can only dream of. My grandfather in Boston, a working mother in Phoenix, and an eighth grade boy in Nashville can only realistically discuss one topic: sports.

Sports support local economies of smaller towns and cities like Foxboro, MA (Patriots) and Green Bay, WI (Packers), and provide millions of dollars a year to construction companies and the like.

Sport allows a common medium for analogies we all understand. Everyone understands pulling the goalie in a moment of desperation, just as everyone understands throwing a curveball in deception.

But beyond all these far-reaching consequences of sport, the games themselves merit plenty of discussion.

Sports are more than just numbers.

Sports are only as interesting as the athletes that play them. Without unique style, charisma, ineptitude, and evil, the game has little interest beyond spectacular plays. Press conferences serve as both dramatic and comedic gold at once, and I'd have it no other way.

A diving catch in center field; a floating touch pass over the outstretched arms of a defender; picking up the arm angle on a breaking ball; denying a big man deep post position: None of these vital parts of sport appear in the box score.

That said, numbers are still very important.

Some say over analyzing statistics ruins the nature of sport. On the contrary stats keep us honest in our heartfelt praise and criticism of our teams and athletes.

Stats help remind us that no matter what Peter King tells us, Brett Favre was at no point in 2008 the best quarterback in the NFL. They explain the streaky batting behavior in baseball as simple variance over a sample, instead of sources of panic.

Stats also provide a level playing field for comparison. Jimmy from Rhode Island and Barry from Indiana will never be able to agree on whether Tom Brady or Peyton Manning is a better team leader, but thanks to statistics they can agree who had a better year passing.


In this blog I'll attempt to look into all of these facets whenever it's particularly interesting. Being in the Northeast, there may be more Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, and Rangers discussion than there should be, but it's my most thorough experience.

Don't underestimate sport in your life.

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