There being, I am told, some sort of football game today, it’s probably a good time to contemplate the appeal of sports. Fortunately, Francis W. Porretto has done the dirty work for us:
If there’s any rational reason for Americans’ enthusiasm for pro sports, it has to have something to do with our disgust with politics. There might be some politics in the operation of a sports league — in the sense of owners and franchisees jockeying for some financial advantage or other, at least — but once the players are on the field, the rules, however complex, don’t change in mid-game. At least, they’re not supposed to, and we don’t expect them to. That’s why the “Pine Tar Tragedy” of a few years back, in which Billy Martin’s citation of George Brett’s illegal bat — and it was illegal, by the rules under which the game was being played on that day — was retroactively overruled by the American League, was so reaving. That sort of nonsense belongs on Capitol Hill, not in the pure and undefiled cathedrals of pro sports. The demagoguery and ex-post-facto rationalizations were even worse. Don’t tell me about “the spirit of the rule;” tell me what the rule says in plain BLEEP!ing English — and abide by it.
Of course, we had this enthusiasm for sports before we became disgusted with politics, but that merely demonstrates our desire for simple, and, more important, immutable rules.
As for the disgust, start with Earl Wilson’s observation that “we have 35 million laws trying to enforce Ten Commandments,” and consider that now we have just as many trying to find loopholes therein.