October 29, 2010

Sports Players as Healers? And Are They Worth the High Salaries?

I once mentioned to a dear old friend, who was also a healer, that school teachers should be paid what sports players make and the guys who run around with a little ball should be paid a teacher’s wage. She replied, “We need sports as an outlet for frustration and aggression. Instead of invading neighboring tribes and villages, that energy is channeled into organized play. The team is the tribe. The games themselves are the attack. It’s valuable to our society.”

Hmmm, you mean it might be a worthwhile thing to pay millions of dollars to guys in little matching uniforms so they can use a wooden stick, tackle each other to the ground, or run back and forth on a little rectangle while bouncing a ball? Interesting concept.

Perhaps the reason why school teachers aren’t making more money is because they aren’t preventing village attacks. But sports-as-healer? I wanted to consider this.

It does prevent violence among our youth. It does offer society an outlet for pent up emotions. We know putting young boys in sports keeps them active, physically fit, focused, and out of trouble. For all involved there are natural lessons in cooperation, group contribution, patience, winning and losing. At its best, it inspires confidence, enthusiasm, and camaraderie.

What about statistics that show domestic violence increases the day of the Super Bowl? Apparently the “healer” theory has a few holes. Still, it has validity, and maybe the players don’t earn too much money, unless they’re abusing dogs, or sending photos of their private parts to young women. Let’s not go there, because that just puts more holes in the theory.

This topic has been on my mind since the San Francisco Giants began their journey into the World Series. Living in Giants territory, it’s mania around here. Giants paraphernalia cannot be escaped in my own house. My black dog, who hasn’t missed a game, sets out on his morning walk donning a bright orange collar. The cat sits in front of the wide screen, apparently a discriminating Bochy follower. My husband, a 50+ years Giants fan, wants a “Let Timmy Smoke” t-shirt. Lord.

My habitual reaction in the past decade has been to ignore competitive sports. After all, don’t they promote fighting and conflict? Aren’t they the cause of some nasty human behavior? Isn’t it unspiritual? Folks spitting on each other, throwing things, screaming obscenities, actually hitting each other. Granted, the latter was something I witnessed at a Red Sox-Yankees game in Boston where I spent more time watching police round up unruly fans than I spent watching the game. Uncivilized!

But these days I see the softening of my formerly held beliefs on how life should be. Now I watch a group of what I call “sweet boys” (all of whom I’ve grown to love) work together for a common goal, support and encourage each other, and say only wonderful things about opposing teams and players (ok, there was that one thing between Jonathan Sanchez and Utley…).

So are they worth the money? I can only speak from my experience. Sometimes appearing as a scrappy bunch of street kids, the guys give it all they’ve got. “Misfits and cast-offs,” an unconventional bunch of underdogs have quickly come together to form a cohesive group with a desire to succeed. Hailing from varied backgrounds, revealing their quirks for all to see, they demonstrate how cultures, idiosyncrasies, and differences can be integrated into a heartfelt, valiant group endeavor.

It’s said they are perhaps the most endearing team in Giants history. And I get it. They’ve shown millions of people how to prevail, to get up again as if it’s a brand new day, offer your best, and have fun while doing it. They’ve shown us the spirit of courage and love. Yes, it’s true! Not uncivilized at all, and quite worthwhile.

As of this writing, I don’t know yet who wins or loses this World Series. Either way, Northern Californians and scattered fans around the country will be happy. We not only channeled our emotions and lost our voices, we’ve been inspired. We’ve run the gamut from hope to despair and back again, many times.

Sports players as healers? I think so, and worth the high salaries if not all of the time, then much of the time, especially in days like these.

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