Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sports Heroes Pro and Con


So you've seen the news: Barry Bonds hit home run number 44,839,925,258 or whatever it is. (Though I'm a baseball fan, my team is the Chicago White Sox, so I don't follow the Giants as much as others do here in San Francisco, where I currently live). This has been the source of much hand-wringing from people in the worlds of baseball, sports in general, and non-sports.

It's made me think about growing up in Green Bay during the 1970s and 1980s, when our hometown team, the Green Bay Packers, was, well, less than stellar on the field and off. In high school, a common topic of lunchtime discussion was the latest arrest of a millionaire player on rape charges. When I moved to Chicago in the 1990s, my White Sox alternately soared and sucked, but they were mostly a group of seemingly good people. (Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas, etc.) But every so often, the team's owners would decide they were going to bring in someone who'd help revive the team – and they'd misfire so badly. One was an accused wife-beater. Another had thrown a baseball at some fans. Neither served to exactly deepen my love for the team. Luckily, those dark forces were only on the Sox for a short period of time before leaving for other teams, and eventually the Sox would soar again, all the way to the 2005 World Series championship.

I continued to follow the White Sox when I moved to San Francisco in 2001, but I also began watching some European soccer (er, football or fussball, if you're German), and names of players there began to mean more to me than baseball players here. Timo Hildebrand, Michael Ballack (pictured above), Miroslav Klose. And you know what? Being separated by an ocean and a continent has helped keep me largely ignorant of detailed news of these players' lives. I assume if any of them was an out-and-out criminal, I'd have heard about it. But I only check the German fussball reports to see how my adopted teams are doing, not to get that sort of day-to-day dirt dishing that we seem to revel in here.

Distance has its advantages.
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