Posing the ages-old question in sports - Why?

February 07, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI


Why do we do it?

Why are sports such a big part of our culture?

Why are one-third of a television newscast and one full section of a newspaper devoted to sports?

Outside of tragedy and Christmas, why is it that sports seem like the only thing that makes the world stand still for a day?

What is it about sports that can turn the first Sunday in February into an unofficial national holiday just because of one football game?


And why does a random night in late October, the third weekend of February and the third weekend in March induce the same hypnosis, turning active people into couch potatoes for the seventh game of a final baseball series, a 500-mile car race in Daytona, Fla., and the opening of a 64-team college basketball tournament?

Why does the world care if these sports have a champion and care enough to make them world champs?

What kinds of magic, voodoo, witchcraft and spells do sports own to bind people across the nation?

Strip away all the money and attitude and it comes down to this - big time sports events are compelling drama and escapes from everyday life that have a life of their own.

Games are games and scores are nothing more than reference points appearing in books in years to come, but watching human beings react in extraordinary and pressure-packed situations is what memories are made of.

Sunday's action - punctuated by Super Bowl XL - featured prime examples of why sports remain so vital to our lives.

There was a display of human will, even before the kickoff.

What else can explain the driving force behind Tiger Woods and the way he continues to run down the competition to win golf tournaments?

Only a chosen few athletes - like the Jordans, Johnsons and Birds, Lemiuexs and Gretzkys and Bretts of the world - seem to have that knack to find what it takes to pull out victory in the end.

There is an unwritten honor system in sports.

It was bestowed on Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis when he led the Steelers on the field during pregame introductions. Athletes and coaches have an innate sense of giving the spotlight to one of their own in sentimental situations.

There was a show of class.

Like him or not, Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher embodies class. In these times of "me first," the only thing on Cowher's mind was to humbly hand the Lombardi Trophy to Steelers owner Dan Rooney. It was the biggest moment of his coaching career, but the man still had perspective.

Sports has a way to take care of the important people who make up its legacy.

It does it with sentiment and a feeling of destiny.

Bettis became one of the chosen few who are smart enough to leave at the very top. Even before the game, he decided he would retire, but he was able to do it while on top after winning an elusive championship (with the added storybook ending of doing it in his hometown).

The last time it happened was six years ago when John Elway retired after the Broncos won Super Bowl XXXIV. (In another sport, it was a fitting display when Cal Ripken broke the consecutive games played record at home in Baltimore).

It's the only way to explain quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's pass near the end of the first half when he rolled out, stayed behind the line of scrimmage, stayed aware of the oncoming rush around him and yet delivered a strike to Hines Ward inside the 5 to set up the Steelers' touchdown.

- There is the genius of split-second ingenuity and trickery during games.

Despite all the attention given to size, speed, blocking and tackling, football remains a game of influence. Coordinators try to get defenses leaning in one direction to go in the other.

Enter the backbreaking flea-flicker pass play from Antwan Randle El to Ward for the touchdown. The Steelers got Seattle going left and headed right.

- And there is beauty of the cast of thousands working as one.

For the Steelers, it was teamwork, patience, drive, focus and the ability to defeat the huge odds of winning four straight playoff road games to obtain pro football's ultimate goal.

Like Bettis said, "Destiny isn't given to you. It's what you take."

For me, those ideals keep me coming to work everyday. Face it, every game is the same. It's the stories that go into the event that makes each game different.

And even with all the chest-thumping and trash-talking that goes on during games - and that's just coming from the fans who support the teams - sports has a beauty and purpose all its own.

And that is probably the answer to the question, "Why?"

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

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