Sunday, February 22, 2009

When Sports Is Just Sports

This is the age of 24-hour sports talk radio. It is the age of countless sports web sites, ranging from national news organizations like to sports team web sites to personal blogs.

This is the era of opinions. If you don't have one, and if you can't get a forum to scream it, you aren't making a dent into the modern-day sports world.

From performance-enhancing drugs to coaches who should be fired to salaries and failed role models, there always seems something needing an opinion.

Of course, so few of them have anything to do with the games themselves. For people who love sports -- who genuinely love the thrill of competition -- having multiple options to listen or read about the games seem ideal. But too often, the games play second or third wheel to everything else that surrounds the world of sports. Sometimes, like in the recent weeks of A-RodGate, they don't get to play any wheel at all.

If you were at Jadwin Gym early Sunday afternoon (and late afternoon... and early evening), you were reminded why you loved sports at a young age. For six hours, there were no salary caps to analyze, no coaches fighting for their jobs, no taunting the opposing player because of something a tabloid newspaper discovered about their personal life.

For six hours, the two best men's squash teams in the country did what they were supposed to do. They played squash. They played hard, they played determined and they played for a championship. They thrilled the capacity crowd, which likely topped 1,000 and was extremely enthusiastic for both sides throughout the competition. The roller coaster ride that fans and competitors alike went on won't soon be forgotten by anybody in the building.

Now, many will scoff at the thought of this extremely dramatic six-hour squash match. That's fine. For one TigerBlog writer, a tense ice hockey game captivates like none other. For another, it's a lacrosse game. Maybe you grew up a swimmer, or a rower, or maybe you just always loved baseball or soccer and that was how you were introduced to sports. However you joined the fraternity of passionate sports fans -- and you know you're one if you deal with the same stomach knots that this TigerBlog contributor currently has, two hours after kids from all around the world played a sport he had never heard of a decade ago -- here's hoping you can wade through the rough waters that often surrounds the games we love and find an afternoon like the one today at Jadwin.

This one won't be dissected, sewn up and dissected again by a thousand columnists and talk-show hosts, desperately seaching for somebody to blame. Honestly, it's more likely to be made fun by a national organization, and the only reason it would reach that far is because of the magnitude of Trinity's 202-match win streak. (When you're sport shares the name with a vegetable, it sets up for easy, lazy one-liners.) That's fine to TigerBlog; when you were there, when you watched it unfold, when you lived the highs and lows, you don't need anything else.

Congratulations to Trinity and to Princeton for the six hours of competition Sunday. Others can and will congratulate Trinity only for its 11th straight national title, and those will be justified credits. But to applaud only the destination discredits the journey, and it is the journey -- the game -- that we all once loved.

And hopefully we allow ourselves to love again.

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