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May 16, 2014

ADAMCZYK: When sport invades the front page

Tonawanda News — That involvement in sport is generally beneficial is self-evident: exercise, camaraderie, identification with a chosen tribe, self-empowerment. All right, that neck sprain you got from defending the honor, on the playing field, of the high school you hated attending will haunt you for life, but you likely don’t regret the experience.

Of course you don’t. You were in the best shape of your life, you had friends and girlfriends and you marvel, in retrospect, at how life-and-death the games seemed. If only life was as simple as back then.

What of not playing, but experiencing sport as a fan? There is always something to talk about; staying involved is merely a matter of accessing a media outlet, like the 30 or so cable television channels devoted to sport. Attaching oneself to a favorite team, or favorite sport, makes you a part of the club at little expense beyond an article of apparel with the proper logo sewn onto it. The self-empowerment is there as long as your team wins.

So how does sport fit into society? Pretty heavily, it turns out. The President of the United States not only wants his photo taken with winners when they visit the White House, the current president has opinions and the occasional follow-up phone call concerning off-the-field matters of societal significance.

The president called Michael Sam last week to offer congratulations on his inclusion in the football draft (wherein the National Football League assigns college players to professional teams, thereby violating several labor laws and maybe the anti-slavery 13th Amendment to the Constitution). Mr. Sam, now employed by the St. Louis Rams, is America’s first openly gay player drafted in a team sport. Never mind he was chosen at the end of the draft while his talents should have made him a more valuable addition, to any team, and never mind that his selection guarantees him little more than an opportunity to demonstrate he can play professionally, and never mind that the jury’s still out on how he will be treated in opposition stadiums or by his own teammates.

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