Are you ready for the greatest sports day of the year?
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden, one of the great motivators of the 20th century and creator of countless axioms, was fond of saying, “don’t mistake activity for progress.” As is the case with most of Wooden’s life lessons, the phrase is both timeless and clairvoyant. The meaning is simple; just because you’re expending a lot of energy or time on a particular task, doesn’t mean that you’re actually getting better at the task or approaching it the proper way. Sometimes, we get so consumed with the acts that make us busy, that we don’t take the time to think about the meaning of what we’re doing.
While deep philosophical existentialism doesn’t really have a place in sports, the Wooden quote seems applicable as we prepare for one of the busiest sports days in recent memory. You might want to keep the Adderall on stand-by to ensure you keep focus for Saturday’s barrage of sporting events. Highlighted by the potentially cataclysmic Mayweather vs. Pacquiao mega-fight, Saturday also gives us the Kentucky Derby, the NFL Draft, the NBA Playoffs, the NHL Playoffs, and another installment of the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry. Now, that’s a whole lot of activity!
But is it progress? In other words, are any of these events really as meaningful as we’re making them out to be? As epic as it might be to see Mayweather and Pacquiao finally square off, there is a sense of resignation, rather than unbridled excitement, surrounding the occasion. Five years ago, this was the event we wanted more than anything in sports. This was our first wish for the sports genie, but our hopes were displaced and our efforts futile.
Today, Pacquiao is diminished physically, and Mayweather is compromised morally — so much so that his criminal behavior towards women makes him one of the most loathsome human beings we’ve ever rooted for in the field of play. That doesn’t feel like progress. It feels like quite the opposite, and the biggest boxing moment of the millennium is equal parts shallow and substantive. And many parts greed. There’s no doubt that we’ll be watching on Saturday night. It will surely be fascinating, but it will be tough to shake the notion that it all feels a little dirty, particularly when Justin Bieber ushers Mayweather into the ring.
Another underlying storyline of the fight is the marginalization of boxing in the American sports landscape. After Saturday, we’re unlikely to experience another can’t-miss pugilistic event for a number of years.
It’s a similar scenario for Saturday’s other marquee event, the Kentucky Derby. As we approach the 40 year mark since the last Triple Crown winner, we continue to question the relevance of horse racing. We tune in, mix ourselves a bourbon cocktail, perhaps even place a friendly wager, but the race is nothing more than a disposable diversion. A far cry from the glory days for the Sport of Kings.
Typically, one of the most watch sporting events of the spring is the NFL Draft, but that, too, is an overhyped non-event at its core. With months of blustery analysis leading up to the Draft, our heads are filled with misinformation and useless chatter, which is sure to continue deep into Saturday.
We all unapologetically love the NFL more than most things in life, but if we find ourselves engaged in serious debate about fifth round Draft picks, it’s time to walk away from the TV. We have been brainwashed into believing that the Draft is appointment viewing (Thursday’s coverage of round one attracted nearly 8 million viewers). In truth, however, it can be a slow numbing of our senses.
Everywhere you go on Saturday, you will hear people declaring that it’s the best sports day of the year. That may very well be true, but you’ll be forgiven if you were still hoping for something a little better.
What event are you most excited about on Saturday? Let’s talk here, or find me on Twitter @endbadly