We spend most of the year complaining about everything from poor scouting to crazy labor stoppages to bad officials’ calls (and then, of course, we complain about replacement refs more than anything!)…but I think it’s important to keep sports in perspective and remember that we watch the games and root so passionately just for the sheer FUN of it. In the scheme of things, sports mean nothing, as I’ve said before they are the ‘toy department’ of life and while I take them as seriously as the next guy, I think it’s important to occasionally step back and put everything in perspective. So, here are a few of the things I’m thankful for in the world of sports in 2012:
-I’m thankful that the ENTIRE football world is finally taking concussions more seriously. Last week I saw headlines decrying seven diagnosed concussions in the NFL. Many saw this as a very bad sign for the league – on the contrary, I agree with SportsOnEarth.com’s Mike Tanier that this was a VERY GOOD sign for the future of the game. As Mr. Tanier points out, consider that the probable headlines even 5-7 years ago would likely not have even mentioned any injuries, and the concussed players probably would have been allowed to continue playing without any diagnosis of a concussion. The players would have been described as ‘having their bell rung’ and in the unlikely event one of the injured players voluntarily did not return to the game, various columnists would question that man’s ‘heart’, ‘grit’ or ‘character’.
In high school, coaches now have to complete concussion awareness training and are held solely responsible for properly protecting their players – particularly those who show signs of a concussion. The culture is slowly but surely changing – ankles, knees, even shoulders and backs can be injured yet still allow a reasonably normal post-football life, but the brain is the essence of human life and ANY injury to it should be treated with the utmost care and respect.
-I’m thankful for the brilliance and spectacle that was the 2012 London Olympics. What a show that was! Lots of drama, the USA athletes acquitted themselves well, and the host nation had their best Olympic medal showing ever. Perhaps just as importantly, the Games were very short on controversy, allowing the world to enjoy all the best of athletic competition without some of the ugly distractions that have dogged past Olympics. Brazil has a high bar to clear after the good work by Great Britain.
-I’m thankful for the scrutiny that the replacement NFL referees generated on a much-maligned profession. As I said at the time, referees are like kickers – you never notice them until you get a bad one. The replacement refs did their best, but they were in over their heads – and by Week Three, the entire sporting world saw it. Competent officiating is crucial to all athletic endeavors, and while the pro officials get all the TV time there are thousands of amateur officials all over this nation making sure kids of all ages learn to play their games fairly. The players are the show, and always will be, and refs will always catch flak for missed calls – but take a moment this Thursday and appreciate the work that officials do to keep games moving smoothly at all levels.
-When it comes to hockey and particularly the lockout, all I can say is I’m thankful that my livelihood does not depend on the whether the games be played. Hopefully this week’s negotiations can bear some fruit – if not, I’ll have a LOT more to say about this issue next week.
-Now for my non-sports thoughts this Thanksgiving season: 2012 has been a year of polarization in so many ways. The rhetoric surrounding this election was as passionate/divisive/angry as I’ve ever heard – yet at the end of the day, our great democracy prevailed and the people chose our governmental leaders for the next 2-4 years. Whether you voted for the winners or the losers, whether you’re liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, let’s all be thankful that our votes still decide our leaders and let’s all hope for increased bipartisanship and a renewed focus on what is best for the country rather than what’s best for either party.
-Finally, on a personal note I’m thankful for the journey my son has taken. I’m writing this while on my way to Parris Island, SC, to see his graduation from Marine basic training. I adopted him when he was six and his life has been full of ups and downs to say the least – if you’d have asked me a year ago, I’d have expressed doubt that he’d be able to graduate high school, much less master a challenge as tough as Marine boot camp. He has grown up so much in the past year and I cannot wait to see how much more mature he is after this achievement. His success is a reminder to me that no one’s fate is predetermined – everyone, no matter what challenges they’ve faced, can overcome their past mistakes and achieve success. Congratulations Gage, I’m very proud of you!
Enjoy your families, be thankful for what you have, and have a very happy Thanksgiving!
Dave Glass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.