AGONY IN THE SHADOWS OF VICTORY©
Essays,UPDATES, Other Materials, & A Blog
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John Weston Parry, firstname.lastname@example.org
Agony in the Shadows of Victory©
By John Weston Parry
For over thirty-five years (April 1961-January 1998) the most recognized sports slogan in America was “...the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat...,” the signature of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Today spectator sports have become a shared cultural phenomenon that brings joy to billions of people around the globe, and countless billions of dollars to a select group of business enterprises. That two hour, iconic ABC sports show has been replaced by 24-7 ESPN sports programming, which is now owned by Disney ABC Television Group.
Arguably, more so than any other leisure activity, sports unite people from different nations and cultures, while providing unmatched excitement and entertainment to fans world wide. Unfortunately, the agony of sports goes well beyond athletes or teams losing games or competitions. Many elite athletes—and the youngsters who try to emulate them—are failing at life as a result of their having been negatively influenced by sports, often beginning at an early age. Communities and fans are losing as well, especially in America where football and other male-dominated sports reign supreme.
Various leagues, federations, committees, and associations operate our most popular spectator sports like business cartels—largely without government regulation—primarily to generate more revenues and wealth for themselves. Those that do business in America include the NFL, NCAA, MLB, IOC, FIFA, NBA, NHL, MLS, PGA, WADA, ITF, and IAAF. These organizations and enterprises not only frequently allow or encourage athletes and coaches under their domains to engage in bad, dangerous, and unhealthy behaviors and practices, but often engage in their own schemes, transgressions, and corruption that sully the communities in which they do business.
Very little has been done to address these sports pathologies, unless and until bad publicity jeopardizes the economic bottom line of these governing cartels. Denials, deceptions, and well-orchestrated pretenses of being concerned with the athletes’ welfare, the host communities, and the public interest substitute for meaningful actions to deal with these accumulating problems and dysfunctions. Yet, our major spectator sports are treated by governments as if they deserve legal exemptions or are public charters, even though typically these sports enterprises operate as cartels with questionable, and sometimes reprehensible, social values. Once in a while Congress or the Department of Justice investigates, threatens an investigation, or issues a report without enacting legislation, but usually it involves blatant antitrust violations, sexual abuse of child athletes, or widespread corruption of unpopular global enterprises such as boxing, the Russian Sports Ministry, or FIFA. Overall, the enactment of sports-related regulatory legislation or the prosecution of athletes or individuals who run or benefit from these sports cartels have been rare events. Normally, our laws shield these cartels from public scrutiny.
As a result of neglect and the lack of governmental oversight, a growing number of serious pathologies now infect our most popular spectator sports, including:
Athlete's Dilemma Description
The Athlete’s Dilemma: Sacrificing Health for Wealth and Fame by John Weston Parry focuses on health-related issues in our most popular spectator sports, including: football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, Olympic competitions, golf, and tennis. Elite athletes, and millions of others trying to become elite, too often succumb—needlessly and/or recklessly—to physical and mental impairments, including brain traumas, dementia, CTE, addictions, substance abuse, infections, and career-shortening/ending damage to their knees, ankles, elbows, shoulders, spines, reproductive organs, and other body parts.
In addition to an introduction and conclusion, the book has 24 chapters, divided into four parts:
The Magic of Spectator Sports©
By John Weston Parry
Spectator sports are important to me. My father, who grew up in the suburbs near New York City, imprinted the pleasures of being a two sport Giants’ fan, even after “our” baseball team had suddenly absconded to San Francisco in 1958. My baseball loyalties were cemented as a young child when the Giants swept the Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series.
I remember Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder-catch and throw on Vic Wertz’s blast to the deepest part of the warning track in center field. I shared that precious moment with my Dad, staring at shadowy images on a thirteen-inch black-and-white television set and listening to the eloquent play-by-play of Russ Hodges that only this languid game could engender. Little did I know it would be fifty-six years until the Giants next won the World Series. Then, almost inexplicably, they were champs twice more within a four year span. Such is the magic of sports.
My first professional football memory was December 28, 1958. Dad and I listened to a transistor radio in Central Park, while playing catch, because the telecast had been blacked out in the New York area. Our Giants lost in “sudden-death” to the Baltimore Colts in the championship game that, at least until Tom Brady and the Patriots staged their miraculous comeback in the 2017 Super Bowl, was considered by many to be the best ever played. Yet, the first baseman’s mitt my father wore on that chilly day is the far more precious memory. His glove sits on a shelf in our living room next to his ashes and a Giants football hat.
My professional basketball loyalty was not established until the early 1960’s. Dad did not follow the sport, but throughout my young life, he, my mother, and stepmother embraced equal opportunity and racial integration. Thus, as an adolescent, I was drawn to the team chemistry that allowed the selectively-integrated Boston Celtics—led by Bill Russell, Red Auerbach, Sam and K.C. Jones, Bob Cousy, and John Havlicek—to win a multiplicity of championships, even over opponents with better individual talent. Team defense, prodigious rebounding, exquisitely blocked shots, long release passes, “stop and pop,” Auerbach's victory cigars, and the Celtic's parquet floor became forever etched in my psyche.
For me civil rights were best captured in sports by Paul Robeson, Arthur Ashe, Bill Russell, the Celtics, Willie Mays, and Shirley Povich. I did not fully appreciate Jackie Robinson until some years later, undoubtedly because he played for the Dodgers and was a Richard Nixon supporter. At Lake Forest College in Illinois I wrote my honors thesis on spectator sports in American society. I examined how those sports affected—and were affected by—law, politics, government, and perception.
During my college years, I also became a Chicago Blackhawks fan. Hockey was the one major North American professional team sport that I had never followed more than casually. By close proximity and osmosis, however, I soon became captivated with the exploits of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Tony Esposito. However, my loyalty to the Blackhawks did not endure, because in the early 1980‘s a new proximity made me a fan of Rod Langway and the defense-minded Washington Capitals. Years later, after my daughter, Jennifer, became a fan, I adopted the Baltimore Orioles as my second baseball team.
My favorite pastimes have been dominated with sports, particularly playing tennis and exploring the great outdoors with close friends. Just as often, though, I have been an enthusiastic spectator sometimes at a game, but usually on a couch, enthralled with the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”