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You look like someone I used to know

July 12, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

Hey. Didn't you used to be ...

I know I know you. I used to sit there and be mesmerized by you when I was a kid.

You can't hide from me. I remember my entire boyhood was consumed with knowing everything about you, about the people who hung with you and the events that made you so beloved.

Still, you've changed. You're just not the same. You can't deny it.

Didn't you used to be Sports?

Oh, I still see you around. You're a lot tougher to recognize. You've aged. You are a lot harder to love.

You used to have a dramatic flair. You were full of interesting people and heroes. You had a rush of excitement about you just by showing up.

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But now, you seem to be suffering through a Menudo moment. One hit and you're gone.

Sports, I hate to tell you this because you are my livelihood, but you are getting a little boring.

You used to be able to stand on your own. Now, the people who handle turn to gimmicks because they mishandled you. Computers, cost and easy access by overexposure have turned you into yesterday's fad.

Think about it. Baseball's All-Star Game used to be an event. Now it is a three-day hiatus with sideshows to fill the void.

Futures Games, Home Run Derbies - now International Home Run Derbies - and red carpet shows have taken away from what the game used to be, a galaxy of stars coming together for an exhibition of the unbelievable talent.

Now, thanks to voting ploys, the best players aren't always there. And if they are, they choose not to play.

Let's face it Sports, you are in turmoil.

You are missing torchbearers, the personality and talent to keep fans intrigued.

We used to have the Jordans, Birds and Magic Johnsons. There were the Montanas, Paytons and Elways. Toss in there a generous helping of Ali, Frazier, Leonard and Hagler ... Ryan, Ripken and Jackson ... Gretzky, Lemiuex and Messier ... and Becker, Connors, Borg and Lendl.

There were many more.

Now, it seems like every one of your games are public relations nightmares. There isn't a face in the space to cause a race of the heart.

The NBA has been in mid Air without Michael Jordan. Since his retirement, the league has searched for a replacement - the latest is LeBron James. The NBA's image and style of play as its 24-second clock of fame running out. Corporate America can't find anyone to be like Mike either.

NFL? There are some interesting sorts, but most are rogues or malcontents. Unhappy players and their legal problems are more exciting than your two Super Bowl teams. Face it, the Patriots-Eagles matchup made Sherwin Williams put on a second coat.

Golf? Suddenly Tiger Woods isn't invincible anymore, so the field is wide open. A new name tops the leader board in every tournament. Will the mystery driver sign in please?

NASCAR? It seems there are a bunch of guys named Joe Nemechek trying to grab the brass ring. The Young Guns are a lesser caliber than Petty, Earnhardt and even Gordon before them.

Golf and auto racing are so desperate, they have a problem with letting boys be boys. A heavy campaign has been launched to have a woman make a mark on the males. It's up to you, Ms. Robinson. The nation is turning its lonely eyes to you.

NHL? They aren't playing and no one really noticed.

Tennis? It's a double fault. The men's game lacks rivalries and the women's game has become more of a fashion show than sport.

And cycling? After Lance Armstrong, who is the next name the casual U.S. fan might name in the Tour de France? Probably Sheryl Crow, because all she wants to do is have some fun following her boyfriend around the Tour de France. Next year, when Armstrong has retired, will the interest remain?

Today, the best stories aren't made on the field. They are created by the media.

Jason Giambi's home runs and Rafael Palmiero's penmanship in baseball's record books used to be enough to cause excitement. Now they are tainted because three months ago they were under the Congressional magnifying glass.

Pitcher Kenny Rogers is on the hot seat for his incident with a television cameraman. He is being taken to task - and rightfully so - for his actions while trying to prevent the guy from doing his job.

The problem is the story continues to live only because he attacked a TV guy. Rogers is suddenly getting the Pete Rose treatment. His terrible judgment should keep him from being an All-Star, a reward he got for throwing a baseball, not a camera.

And while Rogers is being vilified for his style of camera direction, players who have had drug arrests, faced gun charges or other brushes with the law are brought back with open arms.

So Sports, you have some real problems to address to get back to the golden days. You're not the major topic of watercooler conversation anymore. Now, you come up after "American Idol" and "Survivor."

But you can come back. You have it in you. You have opportunities to regain your stature, starting with baseball's playoffs and the beginning of football season.

I still watch and I still pay attention because I still have a soft spot in my heart for what you represent.

Besides, I know you're still out there. I can hear you breathing.

Or is that a heavy sigh?




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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