Say You are Not Interested in Sports?

Same for Me, Pretty Much. But Here are a Couple of Stories for Us All

The Fall of Sports

There was a time when I was pretty interested in sports. That is true for a lot of people, especially guys. But the last couple of decades have left me cold. It seems that professional sports consist mostly of millionaires (players) arguing constantly with billionaires (owners) and neither group cares much about the fans or the communities that host teams.

It’s all about money, power, and fame. Far too many players reject their roles (and obligations) as role models. I saw enough of all this that I pretty well wrote off the whole sports environment.  But not completely.

This past week I ran across two articles that reminded me of what I used to admire. These stories are about two super stars in their games who led with distinction and sportsmen and, importantly, went on with their lives post-sports to do good and have meaning and impact. Not all sports figures can pull this off.

There are sad stories out there of the likes of Mickey Mantle, Bjorn Borg, Michael Jordon, and so many others who lost their reason for being once sports and fan admiration left them. People can have unbelievable skills and talent and still not know how to live a good life. A sad thing to observe. Let’s take a moment to talk about two who beat that trap with gusto.

 Joe Montana

Joe Montana was always my favorite quarterback. He and coach Joe Walsh ran the San Francisco 49ers better, in my view, than any team before or sense. Others have won more games, but that is not the only benchmark of success, important as that is. San Francisco had a unique balance of power and grace. They celebrated innovation and imagination. Trick plays would pop up often. There seemed to be an ambiance of mentorship to bring younger players along.

Everyone associated seemed to be having a hell of a good time while winning regularly. I often only watch a portion of football games, but these guys I would watch for the duration. It was a bit of fun, inspiration, and admiration that resulted. I don’t think any team since those days has captured that elusive mix (I bet we will get some comments nominating other teams to be on this level. Could be.)

So what happened after football? Joe and his wife went back to their hometown area, raised a family and Joe helped start one of the early venture capital firms. Turns out he is good at this (they have several startups they sponsored that went on to become billion dollar companies). It appears he has accomplished this using the same leadership approaches he did in football. Be innovative, do your homework, be a team builder.

It’s a nice story. Read all about it.

Karem Abdul-Jabbar

Karem Abdul-Jabbar always struck me as not only a great athlete, but a thoughtful man. He has certainly proved both statements are true, the latter especially. Jabbar held the title of the most points scored in professional basketball for an incredible 38+ years. This month, his record was surpassed by LeBron James. Did it bother Jabbar that his record had been passed? Not in the least.

When asked about this, he said a few simple but important things. (1) Records are meant to be broken. (2) A broken record means a higher standard of excellence is in force and we should all celebrate that.  I note that he was present on court when James broke that record, and he sincerely congratulated his successor. (3) He is in his 70s now and has been out of the game for decades. Life goes on. (4) He has other priorities now that have won his attention and dedication. Four true statements he makes.

He has gone on to be an excellent writer and thinker. His commentary on American life and his writings are superb. This is a whole human being that has used his time and assets well. His is a thoughtful life. Enjoy:

 While We Are At It, About the Superbowl – and the Future

In truth, I usually watch the Superbowl for the commercials and maybe the half-time entertainment, not so much the game. This year, I thought most of the commercials were ho-hum and I apparently am a bit of an outsider in thinking the half-time show was only so-so. But the game was something else. Two outstanding, almost perfectly matched teams. For the first time, the game featured two Black quarterbacks, each of them outstanding players and leaders – and they have known each other most of their lives. Two brothers played, one on each team.

The game was high scoring, yet with impressive defenses. Both teams rose to the occasion. Kansas City has every reason to be proud; Philadelphia has no reason to be ashamed. It was, in many ways, as good a game as I have seen in years. And at the end, the two teams mixed, congratulating and admiring each other. How about that- sportsmanship!

All of which tells me things might yet get back on track for professional sports. Not so for the owners- this is a hopeless and selfish bunch I have no hope for in the future. But players, people like these two quarterbacks, LeBron James, the entire national women’s soccer team, Aaron Judge of the NY Yankees, and several others – there seems to be a growing crop of new athletes who want to lead by example and take being role models seriously. This bodes well.

This Concludes….

OK, this is the end of today’s sports centered commentary. First one in years. Maybe we will do this again, in another 5 years. Meanwhile, back to politics and policy. See you next week. Happy Valentines today to all!

         Bill Clontz

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4 replies to Say You are Not Interested in Sports?

  1. Having grown up in Texas the game was not one of black quarterbacks but rather two quarterbacks that came from Friday Night Lights!!

  2. With the billions spent on the game and all the betting, I wish there had been mention of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria plus other huge humanitarian crises and asked people in the stadium and at home to donate. In the stupor of enthusiasm for the game, people may have actually been generous. (Hey, I didn’t watch the game, so maybe this happened. I hope so.)

    • Not a bad idea at all. Might be useful for some sort of an umbrella effort by the charity community to look for a way to build that in every time.

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