sports: April 2005 Archives

Draft Day!!

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I was going to throw a post up here praising the cosmetic engineers at ESPN, who must have worked overtime for the past couple of weeks wiping the drool off of the chins of the on-air talent during commercial breaks. For the past couple of weeks, there's been hype layered upon hype leading up to today's festivities, the made-for-TV event known as the NFL Draft. In addition to being Christmas in April for all of those afflicted with Male Sports Answer Syndrome, ESPN has turned the event into one of their biggest (and most self-congratulatory) annual productions.

I have to confess that I did indeed tune in, so that I could see who the Bears were picking at #4, and I'm glad I did. The Bears drafted Cedric Benson out of Texas, and Benson was clearly overcome with emotion. After they did the obligatory League promo shots, ESPN interviewed Benson and it was pretty clear that his tears weren't tears of joy, but rather of relief. I give ESPN a little credit for letting the interview run as long as it did, but what Benson told perennially perky Suzy Kolber was that the entire process was demoralizing, manipulative, and abusive.

The fact is that we still exploit the hell out of these kids--at the top of the NCAA heap, there are a handful of "student athletes" who are making money hand-over-fist for their schools, and never seeing a dime of it. And after that exploitation, they go through a process where a (largely white) group of scouts, head coaches, and owners poke and prod at them and treat them like meat. Benson had to endure having his character questioned, not because of anything he's ever done, but because he was an African-American running back from Texas, and the last high-profile RB from UT was Ricky Williams, whom you might remember as the guy who recently committed the heresy of publicly admitting that football wasn't the most important thing in the world. After spending 4 years proving himself against the best teams in college football, Benson got to go through psychologically manipulative interviews (where his willingness to work hard was questioned because he had to reschedule an interview), artificial tests that are only fuzzily correlated with actual playing ability, and weeks and weeks of having his potential picked apart for no more reason than a couple of hundredths of a second in a 40 yard dash without pads.

Yes, these kids are lucky. Benson will make more money next year than I will make in my lifetime, but the Bears ownership will make more money next year than Benson will over his entire career. I don't suffer from illusions about the purity of sports, but I don't think that fans fully appreciate the degree to which the business of sports can psychologically abuse these kids, turning them into pawns or puzzle pieces. It's a process so dehumanizing that, at what should have been one of the happiest moments of his life, Cedric Benson was just relieved that it was over.

And of course, Boomer and the gang just moved on to the next pick, as though they weren't all complicit in this abuse.

I'm not sorry I tuned in, because it was that rarest of rarities on ESPN, an honest moment, one that said a lot about Cedric Benson as a person. He could never take a handoff in a Bears uniform, and I'd still be rooting for him.

Joy in Wrigleyville

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Well, some joy anyway. There are a lot of teams, it seems, who are starting out the '05 season with a 3-3 record. And the Cubs joined their ranks today, with a 12th inning, 6-5 victory over the Brewers, the second 12-inning game of the series.

Jeromy Burnitz (Sosa's replacement) tripled in the 12th, and after an intentional walk to Derek Lee, Todd Hollandsworth (Alou's replacement) singled him home. I don't think that either of them are going to have us forgetting the 80-100 home runs we could expect out of Sammy and Moises anytime soon. Still, it was nice to see them pulling a game out, and that the rubber game of the series.

From the Department of Bad Signs comes the fact, however, that Glendon Rusch, who's appearing in relief right now, has 2 of the Cubs' staff's 3 wins (Zambrano picked up the other yesterday, and was yanked for Rusch in Arizona in his first outing).

I know, I know. 6 flippin games. But getting to watch Hawkins blow a save a couple of days ago didn't leave me in a good mood. It'll be interesting to see what happens if Prior gets the start on Tuesday. If he and Wood aren't right and soon, the Cubs are going to be spending a lot more time this season battling the Brewers, even if they're not playing each other.

Dear Stacey,

I just wanted to write and thank you for your work as part of ESPN's studio team for the NCAA Women's Tournament. I haven't followed the women's game very closely since I left ODU, and so on the couple of occasions that you and Lisa Leslie provided analysis, I was listening.

And so when you told me that you really liked Baylor as a dark horse for the Final Four, I went ahead and penciled them in all the way to the Championship, and as a result, I absolutely crushed the other competitors in our office pool. In fact, it would have really helped me out if you could have sprinkled in some advice on the men's side, where I spent most of the tournament in last place. But hey, one for two isn't bad at all.

I know you're busy and all, but if you're ever in the area, I think I owe you a cup of coffee or a little Dinosaur BBQ. Seriously. Just let me know.

Thanks again,



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This page is a archive of entries in the sports category from April 2005.

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