Uniformed Uniformity

There is a uniformity in the growth of sports over the past, for the sake of putting a number on it, 50 years. As bats and sticks and helmets and shoes all got stronger and better, so did the players. The methods used to create muscle, and even the money, the lifestyle, and the celebrity status pampering of my generation’s athletes have counteracting this growth in equipment availability. Steroids and muscle enhancers only add an exclamation point to the advances in science and the growth in profits. Players remain owned, but like spoiled children, remain protected, and unlike the $10,000 a year, ice pack for a pulled hamstring, back straining bus ride road trips of the sports ages back in the day, no hangnail nor stubbed toe goes untreated. Babe Ruth luxury aside, times are different, and not just in baseball, but to use it as an epic example, no records, no all time stats leaders remain untouched, protected, and quite possibly the only two records which will last in baseball are those marked by something greater than steroids can provide. Joltin’ Joe’s 56 game hit streak and Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games played streak. The sacredness of these records, and my intentions of pulling them to the center stage of this post, inversely reflect a loss in motivation, and a hinderance on the level of tenacity displayed by today’s athletes.

Fidelity in the NBA ended, and we are left with scraps to make meals out of. The Celtics make up an abundance of those scraps by showing us what a chemically sound team filled with “teammates” can yield, and what a championship from such a team can do in saving face for the NBA. Why is it that Derek Jeter brings in so many supporters from all fan bases across baseball? Because he does his job and gives, (clichĂ©) 100 percent every single game. That is not a feat of athleticism, but a commitment to excellence and respect. I write mainly about hockey because of this respect. I love hockey because it brings sports back to a time where players were treated like pieces of meat. A puck to the face, stitch it up on the bench. A slit throat, no problem. Richard Zednik, in 2008, took a skate to the neck, lost so much blood the Zamboni had to come and clean it up, and he still was able to return to play the next year. (See also: Bryan Berard) Whatever the case may be, a poked eye injury in the NBA holds no candle to the fearlessness of a hockey player. Unless of course one finds facing down a 95 mile and hour fast ball, or a 300 lb linesman a mark of fearlessness. I for one do. I do not want to intentionally single out the NBA with this post however, because there are prima donna’s in every sport; but we’ll save the Sean Avery post for another day.

These words and this rant have to go somewhere, so lets bring it to one simple argument, which I will not argue, nor pose any thoughts of my own towards. I am not ashamed of sports, because I have had the privilege of seeing Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice and Ken Griffey Jr. play, and I can die saying that I was fans of these individuals while they played. I am however concerned with the future of sporting integrity.  How much longer will the composite sticks counter the enlarged pads and masks? How much longer will a stronger arm counter act stronger, faster legs or a faster bat? How much longer will sports uniformity be upheld, and how much longer do we have as fans to legitimately enjoy sports, past, present and future?? Records are not made to be broken, only reinvented. I can only hope that we will all be able to witness a reinvention of sports, of athletes, of the game, within our time, rather than witness it all collapse.

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