I lost out. Or lucked out.
When I was (much) younger, I thought about becoming a sports writer, partly because of my admiration for Jim Murray, whom I read daily in The Los Angeles Times throughout college.
Best sports writer ever, and that includes Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, Mitch Albom, Roger Angell, and even George Will (who knows baseball).
Murray wrote this about UCLA football coach Henry “Red” Sanders: “It is probable he had fewer close friends than any celebrated man in America. He seemed always to be nursing some private disillusionment for which he bore no grudge but which precluded ever leading with his heart with anyone.”
Writing about the Indianapolis 500 after there were some racetrack deaths, he wrote, “Gentlemen, start your coffins.”
His kind of writing was and is rare. His kind of sports writing is nonexistent.
I have wondered what he would do with something like the recent signing by the local National Football League team of a player with a rap sheet as long as my arm and leg.
“According to industry website Sportrac, he has been fined nearly $2.2 million in his career” (The Denver Post).
Or what he would write about Urban Meyer and Ohio State, or Jerry Sandusky and Penn State, or Larry Nassar and Michigan State?
There are scandals all over sports, college and professional, and if I had become a sports writer, I’d have to write about many things I would rather not.
Sanders said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” It’s a quote often attributed to Vince Lombardi, but Sanders said it first.
And he was correct.
It drives everything and we all benefit or suffer because of it.
The local National Football League team is an opiate for the region. I understand it. I have my own team: It just doesn’t happen to be this one.
When my team wins, my day is better. When my team loses, I am downcast.
In order to win, college and professional teams will stoop, cheat, lie, mislead, and cover for athletes and coaches who have misbehaved.
One college football player said he took a pay cut when he signed his pro contract.
What would Murray have done with Reggie Bush?
Or Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, or Barry Bonds? I’m glad I will never know.
There were corruptions when he was writing, but not like there are now. And I know they would have had an impact on him.
I am sure he could have been just as eloquent in denunciation, but I preferred it the other way: when he was praising a player or a team or a coach.
Longtime readers know that I can be cranky. I write in a reflection of the world I live in, and I wish - sometimes - it didn’t seem necessary.
That’s when you hear about my dachshund, or Jennifer, or coffee additives, or some obscure song or film.
If I had stayed with sports alone, it’s likely there would have been a lot of cranky columns, and who wants that?
In 2012, the athlete the local National Football League team just signed “was ordered to pay $12.4 million in damages to two Las Vegas strip club employees from an incident in 2007” (The Denver Post).
The good news is that he has 16 interceptions in 139 career games.
And that’s all that matters.
Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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