... when it should call a timeout

John Steadman

January 18, 1991|By John Steadman

Sports are a grand and glorious choreography of fun and games. War, dirty and violent, is life and death. There can never be a correlation.

Football, basketball, hockey and other frivolous professional athletic pursuits should be halted. America needs to dwell on the solemnity and seriousness of what its valiant young men and women are being asked to do during these terrifying moments in history.

The supreme sacrifice will too often be the end result on the scoreboard. Profound consideration must be shown to the fresh faces, these fighters for freedom who are endeavoring to stamp out a despot who trampled a tiny nation.

Professional sports, part of the entertainment industry, ought to raise its hand and call time out. A temporary shutdown. It would be good for the soul of the country and, more importantly, provide the proper respect to our sons and daughters who volunteered to take a stance in defending human rights.

We don't expect such a recommendation to be accepted because of the selfishness and calloused attitude -- outside the military -- that unfortunately permeates our nation. There's reason to take strong exception to references of calling battle strategy a "game plan." How can such worn out phraseology be applied to battles raging on the faraway desert sands that may be tinged with the blood of our bravest heroes?

Advocates of the "show must go on" philosophy are wrong. Some insist it would be surrendering to a tyrant to postpone a scheduled game; that it would be signaling an admission to a madman that he was so powerful he interrupted the ritual of American sports.

This is a worn-thin company line that is voiced ad infinitum. Sports have distorted our awareness of what's truly important. Even in World War II, the National Hockey League and National Football League never missed an opening.

The same with major league baseball. About the only inconvenience it endured was that it had to hold spring training camps north of the Potomac River. This was done too prevent tying up trains when troop movements and the shipping of supplies were essential to the national cause. Oh, yes, there wasn't an All-Star Game in 1945, and in the war years foul balls hit into the stands had to be returned to the field for shipment to our servicemen.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn't want to show what he perceived would be a domestic weakness if hostilities terminated baseball. Other sports curtailed activities, such as the Masters Tournament. Cattle roamed the august fairways of the Augusta National Golf Club.

And to put the course in shape, once hostilities were over, German prisoners of war provided an immediate work force to initiate the cutting of grass and restoration of the greens.

In World War I, baseball, specifically during 1918, compacted the season to 124 games and the World Series was contested a month earlier. We don't believe the interests of the public are served by staging athletic events -- not when the real stars, in the uniform of the United States and its allies, are putting their lives on the line every second of the day and night.

It won't make any of us feel any better or worse if sports close temporarily. Our troops on the firing line say it doesn't matter, one way or the other.

What it will do is provide them the respect they have earned and impress upon all of us that the full focus of a nation should be devoted to men and women doing something far more important than kicking a football, dribbling a basketball or clearing a hockey puck. Time out.

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