Camden Courier Post - December 15, 1980

Poor, dumb jocks ain’t got no culture

 

By Peggy Morgan of the Courier-Post

 

"Oh, that poor guy, he's playing with a abscess." I was making one of my periodic attempts to penetrate the sports mind. The attempts last maybe five minutes because I cannot locate the mind.

 

Abscesses, however, I can understand – that unfortunate fellow on TV in royal blue grabbing fearfully onto a stick as his abscess was draining.

 

"That's a plug of tobacco, not an abscess." Tobacco spit, in livid color, I did not comprehand. The only decent reason for spitting is an abscess, or possibly pneumonia.

 

"WHO'S THAT ANIMAL with the scraggly hair and the prognathus chin," I asked. "That's Tug McGraw," Carl said in a tone both appalled and aggrieved.

 

The cat and I turned on our heels and quit the television room. I felt sort of sick from the putrid brown spit.

 

So ended my most recent attempt at athletic understanding. I dislike sports like I dislike television. Luckily for me, that obliterates two animadversions at once. I'm closing my mind to them. They don't merit any more effort or time, which is running out and not to be wasted.

 

SPORTS AND GAMES and numbers, also known as scores, and competition make my mind pucker, as if it had bitten into an unripe persimmon. I think the idea of winning and losing is immoral, like war. The only books worthy of flushing, page by page, are ones with titles like. "How To Make Your Child A Winner."

 

Sports is why so many men are so very boring. And often violent. I know there are football heroes who write poetry – one, maybe two – but they are Elephant-Man freaks, not typical jocks. Philadelphia's winning streak does not prove the city is superior but that it is stuffed with thugs. Teams are licensed gangs. I see a correlation between wolf-packs and organized sports.

 

The best thing about South Jersey life is its relative teamlessness. Team spirit is fascism; the cheers of the audience are blood-red roars.

 

I HAVE BEEN examining my apprehension since (he Phillies first approached the World Series. And discussing it since they won as often as I could bear. No one, not even girls, shares my animus. "You'd better shut up, or you'll get knifed,” my daughter advised me at the height of Phillies fever.

 

The otherwise sensible reporter argued: "Would you extinguish this little light in the common man's life?"

 

"Maybe he wouldn't be so common without sports. Maybe he could generate his own light." Maybe he could read John Cheever. Listen to Maria Callas or Edith Piaf. Mix, beat and bake a Sunday meal to the strains of the Bach unaccompanied cello suites. Pray to God for forgiveness of past spectator or participant sport sins. Shred a jogging suit. Tear an alligator from a breast to beat in repentance.

 

Life is grace under pressure. Why limit it to sports?

 

"SNOB," SAID THE reporter.

 

"No, I'm not" Sometimes I listen to rock and roll, read the front part of the Daily News and eat Big Macs, though not at one sitting.

 

I know my dislike has something to do with the kick my best friend gave me at camp when I fluffed a baseball catch. The fluff had something to do with being fat but more to do with the ball's not being a book.

 

The only time I saw my son, the football star, play was when I went to his first game. Tiny little cheerleaders and bitty baby jocks laden with helmets and false shoulders: I wept and went home. It looked like a perversion, like child pornography.

 

"We murdered them," my son says when he wins a game. My insides shudder. My otherwise exemplary daughter plays softball and tennis. I have failed as a mother.

 

Even books by my heros are not always pure. I tried but could not read Thomas McGuane's "The Sporting Club." I threw down "The Sun Also Rises" in disgust when I got to the bullfighting junk. Hemingway has done maybe more damage to poetic young men than he's worth. They miss the lesson of the shot in the head. Well, everyone has his failing.

 

From where I sit, the only exciting ' thing about sports is watching grown men cry and hug and kiss. Pity that their emotion is tapped only by victory and defeat.