SPOILED SPORT: A Fan's Notes on the Troubles of Spectator Sports by John Underwood

SPOILED SPORT: A Fan's Notes on the Troubles of Spectator Sports

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Familiar complaints about the corruption of sports by big money, greedy owners, druggie players, television, the winning-is-everything obsession, etc.--filled out with dour specifics and nonstop rhetoric. ""It has been transformed into economic snakeoil. From something wonderful, it has been made grotesque. . . . It has been appropriated by a growing army of owner-entrepreneurs who made a remarkable discovery after the 1950s: that sport was not sport at all but a tool for extracting incredible riches from the sports-hungry populace."" So begins Sports Illustrated writer Underwood--following up with a tirade/parade of examples. He recaps some of the football/cocaine stories, calling for urine tests ""either on a regular basis or by spot checks before or after a game."" He lists the harm that television has done--distorting the games, inflating egos, upping the stakes, encouraging bad sportsmanship á la McEnroe--and asks for commissions to be set up to control TV's ""voracious demands."" (And spoilsport players should be suspended for life.) Next, Underwood turns to violence on the field and in the stands--blaming the latter problem, unconvincingly, on owner-caused ""fan alienation"" and the players' lack of loyalty these days; the owners (""those villains in the airconditioned boxes who authorize the barbarism"") get full blame for serious player injury--and should be mightily punished in every case. And the owners, again, with ""bullying and self-aggrandizement,"" are responsible for the spiraling playersalaries and the dispiriting breakdowns in negotiations. (""I think municipalities should own professional sports franchises, the way Green Bay does."") So: are things better on the non-professional sports front? Not at all. ""All little league sport""--with pushy parents, the pressure to win--is ""bad for the youth of America."" College sports have been ruined by unethical recruiting methods (""the pounding heart of the problem""), cheating coaches, the money-ethic, the dumb-jock phenomenon--""a national catastrophe."" (Fewer than half of the black scholarship-athletes, says Underwood, wind up with degrees.) But there's a glimmer of hope at the close--in the example of Notre Dame, where (despite some hypocrisy about football as ""only a game"") ""big-time sport and meaningful education are compatible."" With too much romanticization of sports in The Old Days and too little inquiry into broader cultural issues: a sour harangue, often well-founded yet more noisy than persuasive.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1984
Publisher: Little, Brown