Despite a lifetime of watching me play sports, watch sports and now write about sports, I still don’t think my parents quite grasp the reason why I love sports. To them, a weekend of football games is a trivial way to pass the time, but to me, it’s a learning process over and over again. It’s like school, except instead of studying theories that some professor came up with to earn tenure, I get to enjoy a sporting scene that is as unpredictable as ever. Every game brings something new, and every day ends with sports fans having learned just a little bit more. So what did we learn this summer?
Well, first of all we learned that in certain cases, the killing of dogs becomes more outrageous than the killing of human beings. Obviously what Michael Vick did was wrong, even his own mother couldn’t argue with that. PETA and others have every right to protest Vick or the Atlanta Falcons, but I can’t help but wonder, where was the outrage when St. Louis Ram’s defensive end Leonard Little killed another motorist in a drunk driving incident in 1998? The NFL and its fans have brought the hammer down on Vick, but Little escaped with an eight-game suspension after his actions led to the death of another human being. In fact, not only did the Ram’s stand by him, they’ve given him two contract extensions since the incident. While new NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has shown that he’ll harshly punish any transgressors, it is yet to be seen if Vick will ever be given a second chance. If he isn’t, it will be a sad statement by a league that employs a number of former criminals, and a fan base that cheers for them.
Elsewhere in the NFL, we’ve learned that despite the dominance of the Patriots and Colts, parity is still the word of the day around NFL circles. The five worst teams from last season are all at least .500, while the two best teams – San Diego and Chicago – are a combined 2-6. This year more than ever, teams are proving that NFL truly does stand for “Not For Long.” On the college level, #2 USC and #3 Cal are proving that Louisiana State University Coach Les Miles was wrong when he said the Pac-10 was easier than the Southeastern Conference, while Appalachian State taught us that the Big Ten, as always, is grossly overrated.
Tiger Woods and Roger Federer taught us once and for all that before they’re done, there will be no debate about the fact that they are the greatest to ever play their sports. And speaking of the greatest, Barry Bonds showed us one last time that there’s nothing quite like a Bonds at-bat. Whether you like him or not, the chase for the home run record still provided the summer’s best drama.
This summer we also learned that Greg Oden wasn’t the safe pick after all. That Joba Chamberlain is the new K-Rod. That the new Randy Moss is the old Randy Moss, and that the old faithful, Roger Clemens, is now just old.
Every day of the summer brought something new for sports fans, but in the world of sports, the same will hold true for every day of the fall. For instance, just a couple of days ago we saw that Trevor Hoffman will go down in infamy for his extra-innings choke job. The games and seasons might come and go, but this is one class that is never out of session.