Professional Sports: The Original Reality TV

Craig BrownCorrespondent IJuly 14, 2009

HATTIESBURG, MS - JULY 11:   Pall bearers depart the funeral service for former NFL quarterback Steve McNair on July 11, 2009 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  (Photo by George Clark - Hattiesburg American POOL/Getty Images)

If I want my children to know one thing about my love for sports, I want them to understand that spectator sports, first and foremost, are a form of entertainment.

I would like to think of them as the original "reality television" shows. 

There are pre-and post-game interviews and analysis, daily newspaper articles, 24-hour a day sports channels, and instantly updated coverage via the internet. 

Game coverage is filled with interesting facts, such as hobbies, statistics, and history.

It reminds me of watching an episode of Survivor; there are re-caps, previews, and behind-the-scenes interviews to gather all of the gossip.

The sports world is also filled with commercials, endorsements, and numerous outlets to feed the tremendous interest in today's athletic environment.

This attachment to sports provides a bridge to the average fan, allowing one to maintain at finger's length, a pulse on the players and teams of interest.

To take several steps back from my emotional attachment to the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Cardinals, and the University of Missouri, what really have I gained from this one-sided relationship? 

On one hand, there is a lifetime of memories, photographs, and stories that I can pass down, or write numerous articles on my opinions and experiences as I have with this forum.

I also feel competitive athletics, both individual and team sports, provides youth with unparalleled lessons in life, from conflict management to working together as a unit to achieve a single goal.

On the other hand, what is truly real and definable about sports in the scope of our lifetime? What comprehensive value does being a sports fan have in the totality of our existence? 

Oh sure, the bad mood I am in following a Chiefs loss is most definitely real. So is the jubilation and excitement I felt after the 2006 Cardinals World Series victory.

Those feelings and experiences will not, however, have any bearing on the success or failure of my life.

The recent passing of Steve McNair was a very highly publicized event, as well it should have been. There are many reasons, and some from opposite ends of the spectrum, on why this tragedy struck such a chord in our society.

For me personally, the story reinforced to me that I have an enormous responsibility and a valuable opportunity in my life. My greatest contribution when I am gone will not be what I have accomplished, what I have witnessed, or even the good works I may have performed for someone else's benefit.

And it most certainly not be that I was a fan of the Chiefs, Cardinals, or Tigers.

Instead, I will rest easy when my time is done, knowing I have done everything in my power to provide my family with a supportive and loving environment and to appreciate what truly is important in life.

The McNair tragedy is an example of why I want my children to understand that sports is best appreciated as entertainment, a reality show if you will. 

The fact that Steve was an incredible football player does not remove the fact that he was a human, a human that lost his life.

Stories and situations such as McNair's happen all too often, but with the absence of a professional athlete's name attached, they do not garnish the public's attention.

That in and of itself, is troubling to me and speaks volumes about our society.

Without playing the holier than thou card, it is my belief that no person is without sin. We are born with original sin and cannot escape the clutches but through the grace and forgiveness of Our Lord and Savior. I want my children to know that athletes, while perpetuated as mythical and fictitious at times, are human beings, born of sin and not free from tragic endings.

Unfortunately, the nature of professional athletics is one of being above the rules of society, and free from tragedy until the terrible day that tragedy is realized. 

I for one, can appreciate the limitations of sports on my life and the lives of my children. I can also appreciate that tragedies to athletes are real, unlike the unrealistic lifestyle they have acquired and sometimes live by. Unfortunately, as a society, it is difficult to recognize that. I feel it is imperative to reinforce that notion to our children.

While I am of the opinion that sports are best appreciated as an entertainment outlet, that does not stop me from experiencing the entertainment to it's fullest potential.

The key is to understand what is real, and what is "reality TV." I have chosen to invest in the real, and to enjoy the reality. In the end, it boils down to life and death, no matter if you are playing on the field, or watching the game on television.