This has not been a calendar year of champions. Yes, champions were crowned in every major sport, as they always are, but this was a year of storylines in those respective sports. Let’s run through them real quick, just to give you a frame of reference:
NBA: Cleveland comes back from 3-1 down to deliver the first championship to that city in decades. Lebron, that city’s prodigal son, had a pivotal role in delivering said championship.
MLB: The Cubs (need I say more?)
College Football: Clemson wins against presumptive favorite Alabama on a last second play after barely getting into the playoff based on their play on the field all season.
College Basketball: The North Carolina Tarheels, with NCAA sanctions hanging over their heads for academic fraud, roll to another championship.
NFL: The Patriots, led by Mr. Deflategate himself, Tom Brady, come back from a near insurmountable deficit to beat the Falcons in the first overtime Superbowl ever played.
Golf: Long-reviled Sergio Garcia gets his first major victory at the Masters.
I’m in no way saying that these champions don’t deserve their titles. They earned them fair and square, and should be absolutely celebrated for that accomplishment. I’m also not (entirely) saying that the major sports are as scripted as a Hulk Hogan/Ultimate Warrior wrestling match. What I am saying is that all of these champions came with pretty major storylines attached to them, and that, aside from maybe the Cubs and Clemson Tigers to a certain degree, generate a lot of hate from the casual fan. That’s why Sergio Garcia fits in perfectly with this list. Hell, you can even throw Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch in there too.
My concern with all this, aside from the whole “sports might be rigged” thing is that many of us won’t be able to enjoy the sport for the thrill of competition anymore. Everything needs to have this huge story attached now in order to generate interest, and sports purists seem to be in the process of being phased out in favor of those individuals that like a good story. And if you think once the game starts, you can escape it and just sink into the game itself, than you’d better have your sound off because the announcers will remind you of these storylines every time there’s a break in the action. It’s no longer (in terms of basketball) five guys versus five guys on a court to see who can put up more points. Now, it’s five guys, three with dead mothers, one who beat some sort of disease as a child and the other with the weight of an entire city or culture on their shoulders, versus five guys, one a grizzled veteran that has never been to the playoffs before but everyone in the league has a lot of respect for, two guys that were in and out of jail before showing they can stick with an NBA roster, an unheralded rookie taken at the back half of the second round, and the “glue guy,” a center that won’t score many points but will be in every scrum on the court because of his upbringing on the hard streets of “insert shitty city name here”.
Why can’t we enjoy sports for what they are? Grown men and women getting paid gross amounts of money to play games.