Monday, January 28, 2008

6th Annual State of the Sports Union

The State of the Sports Union in 2008 is…unsettled, but promising.

Fans are arguably coming off the worst year in a generation, between the Vick scandal, the Mitchell Report, the Donaghy mess (and even the debilitating BCS debate) – no major sport was left untouched.

On the field, the only fans who seem to be enjoying championship satisfaction are the ones in Boston. New England's empire-building across the NFL and MLB were joined by a once-unthinkable resurrection of the Celtics as title contenders. It is a terrible moment if you don't like Boston sports – or Boston sports fans -- a sentiment that covers most of the country. (Obviously, other pockets of fans -- in San Antonio or Louisiana -- had great years in 2007, but the dominant theme was "Boston.")

But there is hope for this new year.

2008 will be defined by three things:

(1) The Patriots either completing the unprecedented 19-0 championship season or the unthinkable upset of our generation, finishing 18-1. That result and its aftershocks will be felt as soon as this weekend; it will define the rest of the year in the nation's most popular sport.

(2) The Olympics in Beijing, which will pair spectacle and smog, with superstars like Michael Phelps sharing the spotlight with Olympic heroes (or goats) yet to be determined.

(3): The intersection of sports and politics, as we enter into the most contentious and exciting Presidential election year anyone can remember. The Presidential race will dominate everything else, and often intermingle with sports, as you will see this Sunday, the day of the Super Bowl and two days before Super Tuesday.

The rest of the sports year is, thankfully, kind of intriguing: Can the Red Sox repeat, extending this current Golden Age of New England sports? Or will the suddenly spend-happy Tigers give us reason to think of 1968 all over again? College hoops is as wide-open as it has been in years, with a Memphis team that might go undefeated – or dramatically implode short of the championship. College football has the prospects of being as wide-open as last season – whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is a personal choice. Tiger Woods seems poised for a Slam run. Sports blogs had a break-out year in '07, and will only get bigger in '08.

But here is the scarring effect of 2007: Back in January 2007, we didn't see the Vick thing coming or the Donaghy thing coming. "Mitchell Report" was a vague notion, rather than a defining phrase. What we know for certain is that scandal will inevitably rock sports – it is there, just waiting to be uncovered. The corrosive deeds are waiting to be committed: The only details needed are "who," "what" and "when."

What 2007 did was ensure that fans can't cheer without at least keeping in the back of their head that at any moment, scandal will tarnish the moments, will dominate the media coverage, will spoil the fun.

2008 can't possibly be worse than 2007. That's a hell of a statement, in and of itself. All signs point to "better" – even if you are a Boston sports fan.

Put your own thoughts on the State of the Sports Union in the Comments.

-- D.S.


WuzUpG said...

An added note to the Beijing Olympics. It starts on 8/8/08 at 8:08:08 p.m. I'm unsure if anyone knows how much, we, Chinese value the number 8. If you thought getting married on 7/7/07 was a lucky day, let's see how many marriages there will be in the most populous country on 8/8/08.

John Paul Manahan said...

you can add to that the number of people who bidded for license plated having the number 8

bird said...

Um, Dan, you forgot a very important "pocket of satisfaction" in 2007 (and 2006, too!), namely the Gator Nation! I know it's old news for a lot of people, but 3 national championships and a Heisman Trophy in less than 2 years is still worth celebrating!

hutlock said...

I think the fact that Dan left out any reference to the University of Frontrunner, em FLORIDA is probably a good thing for him and his readers. This was a State of the Union-type piece, and any mention of UF would have brought cries of bandwagonism that I'm sure Dan (and many of his readers) are already sick to death of.

Illegal Immigrant said...

No mention of the violence and athletes? Two players were murdered this year and several others were involved in violent incidents. Regardless if they were looking for it (Pac Man) or if it was a senseless tragedy (Sean Taylor), these were also major story lines.

1000steps said...

You failed to recognize the fore coming proof of corruption and horrible human rights records of China when Bejing comes around.. Oh yeah you mentioned the smog.

"Bitter American"

SMangat said...

The real story of the Beijing Olympics will be China itself. Will reporters be given freedom to report whatever they want? Will any traveling 'spectators' turn out to be pro-democracy demonstrators? How will the Chinese authorities deal with the influx of foreigners? Will the media bow down and only report on the spectacle or will it actually do its job and give the public an accurate picture of the nation? The Summer Olympics will not just be one of the most important sports stories of the year, it will be one of the most important news stories of the year.

The Green Carbon Trader said...

Dan, one thing you left out was how EVERY major sports media outlet completly misjudged Sean Taylor, basically saying that he caused his own death without knowing any of the facts sorrounding his murder. Then, barely no one refuted their statements and it was the bloggers who held the mass media accountable.

What does this say for the future when athletes abruptly die, will the same misjudgement continue or will the media hold back to wait for the facts?

Simon said...

If this was the real State of the Union Address you would have [Applause] or [Loud Applause] or [Applause - Hillary's Stern Face] after every 3 sentences.