The moment I walk into a pool room, I am overwhelmed by excitement. This is my game. I pull the dust cover off of the table, feel the green cloth under my hands; it’s cathartic. As I’m racking the balls in the triangle, I begin to visualize my first game. I anticipate the crack of the balls as I break them and the smooth motion of my stroke as I pocket the balls one by one. After packing the balls tightly, I go to the other end of the table, cue ball in hand, and prepare myself for the break. As I lean over the table, bridge hand firmly planted, I smile and think to myself, “I love this game!” Have you ever felt that way about something? Have you ever been passionate about a game, activity, or event? In the world of sports, passion has been the fuel for some of the greatest plays in history. How about the time when Babe Ruth pointed to the stands, calling his home run shot, or the famous Joe Namath guarantee that sparked a fire in his teammates to win the Superbowl? There was a time when men loved their sport so much that they would play it for free just for the feeling they got when they walked onto the field or court. Nowadays, however, it seems that this passion for the games men play has taken a back seat to the love of money. We Americans, players and fans alike, should look back to those days of passion and try to get back the spark that was lost when greed took over.
The first part of my life, sports was experiencing the last passionate players of their kind. Dan Marino was larger than life in Miami, Brett Favre was still playing for the Packers, Michael Jordan shared the spotlight with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and Evander Holyfield still had both ears. It was, at least for me, some of the best years in sports because of the amount of love these guys had for the game. In my dad’s day, the purple people eaters and the hogs ruled the scrimmage line, and George Foreman was still knocking men out. Personality was a huge part of the game in those days. Remember McEnroe? The Refrigerator? Even Rodman for crying out loud! Men showed flair. Something has happened since those days, and it has proven to be deadly to the love of the game: The employers of those who play professional sports have fallen to greed. Don’t get me wrong, making money is great. A capitalist society thrives on those who work hard to provide a service and make money. However, the incessant need to acquire money even at the expense of the happiness and safety of others is wrong. Most, if not all, of the problems that we are seeing in the professional sports industry are caused by the love of money. Take, for instance, the scandals surrounding the MLB concerning steroid usage. Why would a man need to risk his health and credibility by injecting a needle full of drugs into his body? Because someone higher up is always looking to boost the bottom line by looking for faster and stronger players to win more games. That means the older players and guys that may lack speed and strength are on their way out. Do you think men like Mark McGuire and Jose Canseco took steroids because they enjoyed it? Not at all, it’s all about performance and lining pockets with cash.
This love of money is not just limited to the owners and managers, but to the players themselves. Nowadays a prime time pitcher won’t even look at a baseball if his contract doesn’t look good to him and some Quarterbacks won’t play if they make less than someone else. It’s all sickening when you sit and think about it, that the games we love to watch and play are being tainted by this need to make more and more. Now we are raising children who want to play sports for the money instead of the opportunity to play at a high level. Maybe what’s wrong with professional sports is that it has become too much of a profession and not enough of a sport. Every day people have jobs that they have to go to everyday. My wife, my father, my sister, and countless numbers of American people work hard for a living at a job. When we get the evening or weekend off, we don’t want to watch men go to work on the field, treating the game like it’s their job. We want to see passionate men playing their hearts out on the court. We want to see the spirits of those boys they used to be so many years ago getting their chance to live their dreams. That’s what sports are all about: They give us the ability, just for a couple of hours, to escape what has to be done and live a little. So, whether you play a professional sport or just enjoy watching the games you love, remember that it isn’t about the money or the sponsorship; it’s about heart and personality. It’s about Passion and the love of the game!