July Was a Bad Month for Philly Sports Fans

July was a bad month for local sports fans

ByJim Castagnera

        A famous poem, “Casey at the Bat,” concludes,   “Somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout, but there is no joy in Mudville.  Mighty Casey has struck out.”  No such poetry exists for my home of Havertown, but perhaps it should, especially since July.

        First off, the Philadelphia Phillies clocked their 10,000th lifetime loss.  Yes, I know… the team is one of the oldest franchises in big league baseball, so they had more time to run up those losses than most of their opponents.  Who out there who roots for the Phillies feels better because of that?

        Then came the NBA gambling scandal.  The allegations are that a pro-basketball referee bet on the outcomes of some of the games at which he officiated.  An NPR commentator opined that, while making calls to affect which team won or lost a game was difficult and dangerous, impacting the bookies’ point spreads was do-able.  Late game foul calls, he added, would be the way to manipulate that factor.

       Hey, listen.  I can relate to a ref, who watches the players with whom he shares the hardwood take home multi-million dollar paychecks, coveting a piece of the pie for himself.  But, Dear Lord, did he have to be an alumnus of Cardinal O’Hara High School?  Delaware County residents have been the targets of subpoenas in the investigation. After what the Phillies handed us, this seems a little like piling-on to me.

       Then, just when I thought we had that miserable month of sporting news behind us, came the rape allegations from Villanova University.  Three freshman football players, who came to campus for a two-week course aimed at giving them a jump on their fall studies, were accused by a female student around the middle of the month.  The incident hit the media about 10 days later, when Radnor police became involved.  Although the sexual assault seems certain, the young woman prefers not to file charges; the dismissals still stand.

      Both the NBA and the university are to be commended for cleaning their houses.  Still, a fan can be forgiven if he feels disheartened by all this bad news.

      Look here.  I know I’m naïve.  “An incurable romantic,” is what a nun called me way back in high school.  “Guilty,” remains my unqualified plea, all the way down to this day.

      And yet…

      And yet, is it too much to hope for a little inspiration, a bit of uplifting from our athletes?  Before it was all about the money — the full scholarships for NCAA Division One football and basketball players, Olympians’ faces on Wheaties boxes, and the mega-buck, multi-year contracts for those who make the leap into the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball — athletic competition was about the love of sport and the inspiration we derived.

      Recently, I visited the town where I grew up, Jim Thorpe.   The great Indian athlete is buried there.  His mausoleum is surrounded by walkways and a reflection park, where placards proclaim the highlights of his career.  He excelled in both professional football and baseball.  His grandest achievement was winning the Olympics’ decathlon in Oslo.  In presenting the gold medal, Sweden’s king called Thorpe “the greatest athlete in the world.”  Anybody old enough to remember “The Jim Thorpe Story,” starring Burt Lancaster, knows the tragic conclusion: alcoholism, poverty and an early death.  No, not much inspiration in that ending, either. 

      Weighed down with these decidedly unromantic reflections, I wandered down Glendale Road here in Havertown to one of the several baseball fields used by our community’s Little Leaguers.  I planted myself on a bleacher seat and watched as a little lad stepped up to the plate.  Another little fellow wound up and lobbed a pitch while his teammates, including a couple of feisty girls, urged him on with the chatter that Little League coaches across the country encourage.  The first pitch was a ball.  Predictably, parents proclaimed, “Good eye.” The second pitch got popped high in the air and…

    Well, what does it matter whether it got caught or the batter landed safely on first?  What cheered me was the innocent enthusiasm and pure competitive spirit of a game on which nobody had a bet (unless maybe it was a beer between two of the dads), nobody had a scholarship or a major league contract at stake, and the only remote risk of assault might be a bit of old fashioned fisticuffs.

      I walked home with a lighter step.  If last month’s sporting news has gotten you down, too, I recommend the same remedy.  There still is joy in Havertown.

Jim Castagnera of Havertown is the Associate Provost/Associate Counsel at Rider University and a 2007-08 Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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One Response to “July Was a Bad Month for Philly Sports Fans”

  1. Mercedes AMG

    2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

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