What happened to the love of the game?

Campus Times
February 27, 1998

by Greg MacDonald
Sports Editor


When professional hockey players took the ice at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, an era, what was left of it, came to an abrupt end.

Not too long ago in a place similar to today's sports world, amateur athletes took part in every aspect of sports competition. However, that world was spun by its gravitation pull, this one has been flipped on its axis by society's constant drive for the ultimate goal-money.

Yes, Corporate America has spoiled nearly everything that is sacred in our world today, including athletic competition. For the thirst of the viewer, companies and businesses spare no expense to draw the audience. Maybe that is one reason the big names of the National Hockey League (NHL) were ordered -- yes, ordered -- to compete in the Olympics and not up-and-coming youngsters.

Watching the professionals skate around the rink, I noticed the players were not going full speed and were not checking as hard as, well, a player who is not yet a proven star.

The Olympic Games are not the only sporting event effected by the drive for cash. The sports scene in America also has its share of problems.

For the sake of the audience, team owners and players' agents drive the prices of players' salaries sky-high to draw more fans. This causes a series of reactions both internally and externally. If you are weak of heart or get motion sickness, you may need to get your doctor's permission before continuing.

The first reaction to a high-price contract comes from teammates. Instead of congratulations, an immediate comparison among individuals begins, forcing management to continue to raise the salary bar.

But what is their dollar anyway? It is obtained by the owners from the fans supporting their teams at various arenas and watching the events on television.

And after all the contract talks and back-stabbing is complete and a contract agreement is reached, the media and the general public force the newly crowned multi-millionaire to live up to their expectations. This would not happen if contracts were not the issue, but if performance or passion for the game was.

Imagine a world where an athlete was judged on how he acts on the playing field and not how fat his wallet is. That is what sports are supposed to be about: the competition, the struggle, the success.

Take, for example, the Czech Republic's gold-medal men's hockey team. It eliminated the United States and overcame all expectations with the lowest number of professional hockey players on its squad.

The 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers were a team that did not have marquee names but had heart, which proved to be its most valuable possession.

Probably a great example of playing for the game and not for the contract is the ULV men's basketball team. They are not playing for bonuses or television ratings. They are not even playing for athletic scholarships. Instead, they are playing to earn a spot in the Division III playoffs.

The world is a strange place filled with greedy people who exploit every person, place or thing under the sun to make a buck. But in our capitalistic society, It is their right to do so. Although it may not be ethical to buy souls, which Corporate America has done, it seems to have become the American way.

What is there to do? We can either accept it the way it is or we can try to remember why it is we compete, not for the bills but for the love of the game.

Greg MacDonald, a sophomore journalism major, is sports editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at gmacdona@ulv.edu.