On many levels I agree with the good Dr. Ablow that sports really do not matter. But like many smart people he takes his strong position and pushes it too far. The reason sports matter to most of us is precisely because we understand the difference between reality and enjoyment.
I can assure the doctor that when I was sitting here in my den, in my old age, watching the Red Sox open the season this past week with three games against the Yankees, I was enjoying myself. Of course I knew the game would not affect my net worth, my health or my spiritual well-being, but in the same way my listening to the Beethoven violin concerto does not matter, I treasure that gorgeous music as I do the well played baseball game.
The real question Dr. Ablow asks is what does matter? Theologians ask what does it matter if we gain wealth with all it brings but lose our soul in the process. Wise adults come quickly to understand there are values such as good family relations, decent health and a feeling of proper citizenship that cannot be priced. Do they matter? Of course they do but there is no tangible measure for them. Indeed, what does matter is what we want to have matter.
We decide, each of us, how we want to spend our time and how we want to measure the meaning of each part of the day. We use sports as part of the mosaic of life. We spend time watching others play "the beautiful game”-- as the rest of the world calls soccer-- and we go to the ballet and symphony and opera for similar reasons. There is beauty and joy and even truth in sports as there is in those activities. If sports do not matter, how about the opera and the symphony? It is not as politically correct to sniff at the waste of time those lovely passions involve. Yet somehow the elites among us often remind us of how plebeian it is to sit with a cold adult beverage and enjoy the ball game on a warm summer evening.
To me, the ability to be able to enjoy and appreciate the subtleties of baseball and other sports is to recognize the various ways we can experience pleasure. The issue raised by Dr. Ablow is a red herring in the sense that he asks a legitimate question but addresses a false target. The sensible person does not ask why it matters to take a walk in the woods on a fall morning while the leaves are changing color. We do not live solely -- no pun -- for things that matter in the ultimate sense. Ultimate concerns are for the philosopher. Life is to be lived and not to be restricted by such questions as whether this moment could be better spent learning Greek verbs or how to fix a toilet. It is the wise person who knows when to ask the proper question. And to ask about the ultimate meaning of time spent lying in the grass staring at the sky is to engage in absurd self-flagellation.
Get a life. Relax. Live a bit.
I remember being distraught one time as a kid when my Yankees -- I told you I was young -- lost a big game. My Father asked me what Dr. Ablow is asking. Does it matter they lost? Of course he and the good doctor are correct in that the game does not matter at all.
But yet even as a kid I knew the correct answer was not the right answer. The loss mattered to me because at that time I cared. When we care about our teams, their performance matters. The act of caring is part of the investment we make when we follow sports. It is an emotional and not tangible investment but that does not make it meaningless. Most of would not invest in the outcome of a sporting event -- gambling corrupts sports -- but we care because we know the outcome is not going to affect tomorrow.
We love that part of sports. We kid ourselves. There is always another game, another day, another season. Wait 'til next year is the eternal cry of all of us who know how grim is the scythe of Lady Fate who is sitting just around the corner. Now she matters, Dr. Ablow, and we know that just as well as you do. What else does?
Fay Vincent is a former CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries. He served as the Commissioner of Baseball from 1989-92.