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ISSUE 121 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/29/2008

Inside the Lines: Reasons we watch

By Matt Tiano
Executive Editor


Friday, February 29, 2008

We live in an era that will be better remembered for steroid use and recruiting scandals than amazing jump shots and blazing fastballs. As fans of our beautiful games, let's represent accomplishment over failure, integrity over deceit and fun over burden. After all, sports were sports in the first place because, well, they are fun.

Here are eight reasons why sports are fun. Nowhere mentioned are steroids, Kelvin Sampson or Pacman Jones.

Analogies: How you feeling? Not so great? Then you're not in the game. Going to decide later? Then make a game-time decision. In a little bit of pressure? You'll get out of the bases-loaded jam. Need some help? Make a call to the bullpen. Need a break? 20-second timeout should do it.

Airports: Try this sometime: In an airport, find a stranger, anyone, and just start a conversation about something sports-related. It can be about anything, really, but make it about something fairly influential in the sports world (any of the major sports' championships will do). Amazingly, the gaps (who is playing, the stakes, etc.) are already filled in for you. My airport moment came over Interim break. A man I never met, never will see again, and all it took was an Eli Manning and David Tyree Super Bowl connection to make a connection ourselves. Where else does this happen? Politics, maybe, but two Barack supporters have a connection only in a "we both want out of this mess" sorta way. Sports, in this particular instance, were a connection because we both knew exactly what happened, where it happened, why it happened and why that particular moment mattered. No need to waste time re-hashing these seemingly minute details.

Baggage: CBS Sports, in its history, during a Michigan telecast, has never NOT showed that 1993 NCAA final when Chris Webber called an infamous timeout. Memories (and stupidity) don't go away. In the 2004 World Series, Red Sox Nation was dismantled, frustrated and above all, hopeless as their beloved team trailed the Yankees three games to zero. Babe Ruth leaving town, Bill Buckner muffing the ground ball ("It gets by Buckner!"), mention of the curse everywhere you turned. Red Sox fans had to deal with this in every direction, on posters, on billboards, in the curse-filled cloud that the baseball gods created above each and every Red Sox fan watching without hope, but watching nonetheless because, well, that's just what you did. We're talking 86 years without a championship. We're talking birth and death in that span. But suddenly, after the Sox erased that deficit, all this baggage seemingly was hidden behind the Green Monster. It was the journey -- the journey with Ruth, with Buckner, with talk of the curse -- that made that final hopeless moment possible.

Debate: If you told me that the Shaq to Phoenix trade won't help the Suns, I'd laugh (and still laugh, despite the recent Detroit destruction of Phoenix). Shaq is the answer to an inside presence previously absent in Phoenix, and an even bigger answer to a necessary revamped chemistry. Shaq has never played alongside a high-quality point guard, and well, I'd say Steve Nash is fairly high-quality. The list goes on and on, but that's not the point. If you'd say that Steve Kerr was nuts, I'd have to listen. I'd of course counter, fueling the banter. Then we wait and see, come April, and I'll prevail.

Extra Innings: The obese baseball fan -- can't you just hear him, "Sure got our money's worth tonight!" Then he gets up, orders some more peanuts followed by a malt cup. After the bottom half of the ninth in an even game, you answer some questions: What do I have going on tomorrow? After which inning do I head for the exits? The 15th comes, and you're still in your seat, and the fan beside you is on his 15,325,636th bag of peanuts. You just can't leave. If you're a Royals fan, this will be the 23rd straight year missing a playoff series. But it's still baseball. So you wait it out.

Failing: Where else can the people that are the very best at what they do fail 70 percent of the time? This lone fact is refreshing as we go about our daily lives. What if we failed 70 percent more than we succeeded? That'd make things interesting.

Hope and possibility: If you're a Yankees fan and your pitching staff manages to surrender six first-inning runs (not out of the question), you don't change the channel. You don't go to the kitchen. You don't go to the bathroom. You don't get up to order a pizza. The reason: Alex Rodriguez batting clean-up. Damon could reach. Jeter could reach. Abreu could reach. A-Rod could make it a six-to-FOUR ball game (can't you just hear the annunciation of the "FOUR?"). Likely? No. A possibility? Absolutely.

Sounds: Look me in the eye and tell me you don't cry (tears count, but balling is encouraged) during the conclusion of each and every NCAA championship game. C'mon guys, fess up. It's okay. It gets me every time -- "One Shining Moment" -- the buzzer beaters, the improbables, the crying, the smiles. And I don't even know these people. How about Gus Johnson: "CBS Sports! THIS is March Madness!" (last year's Ohio-St.-Xavier second-round matchup following a Ray Lewis game-tying three-pointer); "UCLA has CLIMBED the mountain!" (UCLA's 17-point turnaround against Gonzaga in 2006); "The slipper stilllllll fits!" (Gonzaga upset of Florida in 1999). It's a blowout, and Johnson still needs a sedative.





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