“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” – Albert Einstein
“Our brains are no longer conditioned for reverence and awe. We cannot imagine a Second Coming that would not be cut down to size by the televised evening news, or a Last Judgment not subject to pages of holier-than-thou second-guessing in The New York Review of Books.” – John Updike
Sport is not dead, but one of the things that made sport truly great and inspirational, surely is. I’m an older guy than some of you. I’m old enough to remember feeling a sense of awe and wonder at the accomplishments of an athlete or group of athletes. I can remember when it was possible to think, “He did it! He did the impossible,” and feel the gooseflesh rise along my entire body as I contemplate with amazement, the ability of a human being to overcome a seemingly unconquerable obstacle through superhuman will, skill, and determination.
Now, when I see a feat of superhuman athleticism, I don’t wonder with amazement at the power of the human will, I rather wonder whether the athlete in question is using performance enhancing drugs.
It makes me sad that there will never be another Miracle on Ice or another Babe Ruth. I remember how amazed I was at witnessing the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team win the gold in 1980, and how pure that moment was. When Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France, coming back from cancer, I thought that maybe anything really WAS possible, but now I know it’s not. At the time, I didn’t think that maybe these moments were attributable to PEDs, but now, there’s no question that I would.
This A-Rod fiasco is, of course, only the latest of these assaults on wonderment and awe. He didn’t do anything that anyone else didn’t do, but there was one, little voice in the back of my head that wished he would break the home run record to cleanse that most hallowed of all benchmarks. Maybe I was naive to think he might be clean. Yes, the guy’s a little strange, but I kind of thought (or maybe just hoped) that he was clean.
I don’t think I’ll be naive anymore. For me, this is sort of the last straw. I just don’t believe anyone anymore. Every act is suspect, every deed is questionable, and no feat of greatness is ever truly pure. That era is dead forever, and a significant part of what I loved about sports is dead, too. Man, these guys make it hard to root for anyone or anything.
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