Some have accused me of being argumentative or as Ron Wilson called me a contrarian. I enjoy a good debate. Be it arguing with Dan Rusanowsky about politics or Randy Hahn regarding make-up application techniques, I enjoy intelligent, passionate discord. I sparked a debate with Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson a couple weeks ago about sports. The conversation continued that night on the Shark's charter with many other members of the organization. It started with a simple question. Has there ever been a sporting event or achievement that has made a positive difference to the world? My take; No. Not one single event or achievement in all the millions of athletic accomplishments throughout history has made a positive difference to the world. There has never been an athlete to match the works of Dr. Jonas Salk, the developer of the Polio vaccine. The Olympic Games can't match the works of Alexander Graham Bell or even Bill Gates. That's not a bad thing but it’s a fact. Now this side of the debate raises some harsh emotions to those that believe sport is more than just a game. These people like to bring up certain memorable and infamous athletic events.
1936 Berlin Olympics. American Track Star Jesse Owens wins four Gold Medals in front of Adolf Hitler. Not to mention Owens is the flag bearer for the opening ceremonies and defiantly refuses to tip the stars and stripes towards the ground when passing Chancellor Hitler. Owens proved the greatness comes in the individual not from the national origin or birthplace. The argument being that Owens debunked the myth of the 'Master Race'. I agree with that but a year later Hitler revealed his War plan at the Hossbach Conference and set into motion the events that lead to WWII. Yes, Owens is a credit to his country and the Jesse Owens Foundation has done wonderful work promoting youth to their fullest potential, but his four Gold Medals weren't the difference to stop the evil Hitler released on the world.
1947- Jackie Robinson becomes the first to break the color barrier in baseball. Robinson endured all kinds of hatred and bigotry in what not only was a huge sporting moment but an important civil rights event. Robinson went on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1947. His career culminated with a Hall Of Fame Induction in 1962. His achievements were important to the U.S. sporting landscape and to the U.S. Civil Rights movement. But there was and still is bigotry and racism in the world. Civil Rights icons like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were assassinated in later years. The world has a long way to go in racial equality.
The first games of the modern Olympics brought countries together in peace and spirit of competition. Since then we've had world and regional wars. Terrorist attacks in 1972. Boycotts for political agendas. Steroids, bombings and judging scandals have tarnished, if not completely destroyed the sense of the world community coming together.
There have been many other amazing sporting accomplishments like the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and Russia. That series defined a nation’s passion for hockey. The 1980 miracle on ice stands as the greatest sporting moment in U.S. history. But as great as these moments were they still didn't change the World. There were regional influences and effects but no far reaching positive differences. To be fair an athlete’s life works can be influential like Muhammad Ali, Terry Fox or Lance Armstrong. Their efforts after their athletic achievements are the difference.
So what's my point? IT'S JUST SPORTS. It's a game, a contest, a competition. Sports are a diversion for our lives. Sports is the entertainment business. They give us a sense of community-a common team to cheer for. Sports gives us a chance to participate and compete. Sports can reveal a little or a lot about ourselves and others. But sports can't change the world. But what people like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Lance Armstrong have taught us, individuals can make a big difference.