The Decline Of Professional Sports
by Larry Turner

I have watched all kinds of sports since I was a small child, undoubtedly because of my father’s interest particularly in college and pro football and professional baseball. Basketball was not as popular back then, but bringing the Heat to Miami brought an elevated interest in that sport as well.

A lot of the present decline emanates from the ever-increasing number of serious injuries suffered by players in all sports, and it seems like the premier players are most likely to land on that list during their seasons. That may be due to poor conditioning, over- conditioning, or just poor, bad luck. Whatever the principal reason, injuries to key players diminishes the quality of play of any team in any sport.

Undoubtedly, these injuries are partially to blame for the number of early-age deaths of athletes that are almost weekly news in our sports pages and feeds. It is incredible how many excellent athletes die between the ages of 40 and 60, far too many to encourage developing athletes from committing to follow the traditional paths to professional participation.

There are also outside influences impacting the downward direction of this important entertainment sector. Take, for example, referees. They used to control the games, whatever the sport. Today, they make obvious mistakes that cost teams dearly during contests, even though the leagues often admit following the event in question that errors were committed by the men in stripes.

Another outside influence that mainly affects electronic fans is the conduct of commentators. They often take over the games by talking too often, regardless of whether their content is on track or not. They seem intent on becoming the central focus of the game. These are highly paid and widely admired former athletes, but they need to be groomed on proper etiquette in providing suitable commentary.

In many sports it occasionally appears that the players have usurped the game’s control from the head coach or manager. An example of this seen by over 123,000,000 people in this year’s Super Bowl was a tight end yelling obscenities at his coach when he came to the sideline and ending the confrontation by pushing the head man. How do you think that the great Coach of Green Bay, Vince Lombardi, would have reacted to this conduct.

To briefly remind those who were not pro football fans during the Lombardi era, here is a telltale story making the rounds in his day:

Coach Lombardi and his wife were laying in bed one night when she exclaimed “Lord my foot hurts,” to which the Coach replied: “You can call me Vincent dear.” I predict he would have dealt with the sideline confrontation described above quite differently. This kind of disrespect of your leaders cannot be tolerated, especially in front of millions of shocked fans.

One final subject. There was a report recently on TV that over half the male contestants in Olympic competitions are on some type of stimulant or drug, and many people are well aware of it. It has grown so prevalent that there is serious conversation about developing an event comparable to the present Olympics that would be crowned the Steroid Olympics. How sad is that.

Unless the leaders of sports and their media allies gain back control of these sports and their mechanics, interest will wane, advertisers will bolt, and sports will head back to the shanty stadiums and muddy fields. Well, maybe not that radical a result, but you get the picture. Change is imperative. Starting now.