by Clark Groome
When the front pages of the newspaper or the lead stories on the TV newscasts are depressing and discouraging, you should be able to get some relief from sports.
During World War II there was a lot of discussion about whether or not baseball should be suspended for the conflict’s duration. Many of the sport’s best players volunteered to serve in the military. The competition was likely not going to be very good. The country’s resources, and those of the people not actively participating in the fighting, might better be used somewhere else.
But baseball continued. The country needed a pleasant diversion from the fighting, the killing, the rationing and the fear.
After Sept. 11, most college and all professional sports were suspended for about a week. When the games returned, many wrote, the country began to get back to some semblance of normalcy, or at least the new normalcy to which we would gradually become accustomed.
Sports, for all its other attributes, allows people to escape from the unpleasant front-page realities of beheadings, drive-by shootings, a dishonest anchorman and the crippling weather that is becoming an increasingly frequent companion.
At least it used to allow that escape.
Now, alas, sports is often just as depressing as the other news. In the last six months or so we’ve been bombarded with the story of NFL running back Ray Rice slugging his fiancée on an elevator at an Atlantic City casino; almost daily stories about a pro athlete being accused of spousal or child abuse, including NASCAR’s Kurt Busch on the eve of last weekend’s Daytona 500; myriad stories of former football and hockey players suffering from post-concussion problems that range from personality changes and dementia to depression and suicide; a spectacularly talented football team that needed to cheat by deflating their team’s footballs so that they could get an extra bit of advantage; and the ongoing issue about who’s taking illegal drugs.
Often the headlines focus on management figures in the various sports publicly demeaning their players. Whether true or not, it is both insensitive and likely impractical if they ever want to trade one of those whom they’ve dissed.
For most of that period the one story that seemed to be immune to being screwed up was last summer’s Little League World Series. Locally, the Taney Dragons, led by pitcher Mo’ne Davis, were a constant companion for most of August, with the team still being recognized all these months later.
Their story was matched by Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West, an all-black team that played and won the American title in Williamsport.
At least that’s what we thought until a couple of weeks ago when it was discovered that the folks who ran the team had broken the rules by recruiting players from outside their permitted geographical area. Their title was stripped, and the kids were punished for the action of the adults in whom they had placed their trust. The “feel good” sports story of 2014 became the first “feel crappy” sports story of 2015, and it’s still early.
So where do you turn for that escape that baseball provided in the ‘40s and all sports have so often since then?
How about Madison Square Garden? That’s a famous sports venue and one that has seen its share of significant sports distractions.
A week ago Tuesday, David Merriam stepped into the ring and, after 20 minutes of really intense competition, declared the young Canadian Miss P to be the Westminster Kennel Club Show’s best in show. Miss P, a 15-inch beagle – the grandniece of Uno, the rock star who was the first best-in-show beagle – was a surprise victor. She’s irresistible.
So for the moment I’m sticking with the beagle. She’s got several things going for her: she’s cute, she’s friendly, her tail wags nonstop; she has no record of puppy abuse and she’s Canadian.
If she bites the prime minister, please don’t tell me.
I want to envision her living a life on top of her doghouse, just like Snoopy, and raising several more Westminster winners.
And to hell with those two-legged sportsfolk who do so much that’s disappointing.