Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, once said "Sports are a great teacher". (At the Helm, pg xiii, Doubleday) I wholeheartedly agree. Most of my life's lessons are learned while making lap after lap in a pool, while climbing Taos's Kachina Peak or sailing 1000 miles offshore. It's the input of teammates, family, fans and coaches. Excelling at sports requires dedication, discipline, quick thinking and a high tolerance for pain. Its because of this that athletes are some of the most revered and respected figures in our culture.
For some, sports are simply games, a way to pass the time. For others however, sports are a way of life, a means of income. Sports is how I make a living and support my family. Its been my dream to make a living at things that I am passionate about. For me, sports matter a great deal.
I bring this up because of the happenings at Penn State. I've read through some of the comments to articles online and have seen many say that the world is too focused on sports, that these are just games and JoePa let his love of a game cloud his judgement.
I think the situation actually proves the worth of sports in the world. Yes, JoePa and others let their love of the game cloud their judgement, but their errors were not because of sports. He should have reported the abuse to authorities right away. And the Board of Trustees at Penn State agree and fired him. The Board realizes the importance of sports and the reputation that JoePa has built up for the university. Its this emphasis that has made Paterno's firing all the more relevant. All the good that he did for the school has potentially been wiped out and they did the right thing by canning the guy.
The emphasis on sports has also been brought up in the wake of Dan Wheldon's death in Indy Car. I read somewhere that it was such a waste to risk for him to risk his life on "silly" car racing or simple entertainment. While the safety of the race in Las Vegas can be debated, I don't think that Wheldon's line of work was any less important or admirable than a banker, a doctor, a florist or most other professions for that matter. He obviously had a talent and a passion and leveraged those into an incredible career that took very good care of his family and provided many inspiring moments for fans to learn from. It is tragic that he died in his race car, but it was not in vain.
Sports really do matter. While sports, as any activity or career, needs to be balanced with other life issues, sports as a profession or a pastime, is a well respected and necessary part of our culture and way of life.