Offensive Sports

Hosted by

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

When people ask what my favorite sports are, as a spectator, I answer tennis (actually badminton, squash, anything with a racquet), the NFL, most of the Olympic agenda, especially track & field, baseball, the NBA. Even when I'm not a regular follower, almost every sport offers some aspect that will at least somewhat hold my interest. My first job as a sports journalist was as an announcer for ABC's golden series The Wide World of Sports. I would jaunt around the globe, from the World Table Tennis Championships in Tokyo one Saturday to the World Water Skiing Championships in London the next to the World Lumberjack Championships in Hayward, Wisconsin. To observe and interview the individuals who have pursued and achieved the pinnacle of any endeavor is a privilege. Even log rolling has its merits.

But there are certain sports I not only am not drawn to... a few sports even offend me. Or things about them offend me. I respect the game of golf enormously. The skills are so difficult that even the greatest champions don't win as much as ten per cent of the time. I can surely take in the beauty of those rough-hewn courses on the Scottish coast and the fairways nestled among the stately oaks of New England. But there's always something off-putting about the inherent classist nature of golf. Even in the era of Tiger, it remains a sport of the upper crust... and a sport that demands an unconscionable use of water to maintain those pristine, short-cut greens.

Most sports involving animals are not my cup of tea. I covered the Iditarod dog-sled race ten times. Walking out onto the ice of the Bering Sea in February, the Northern Lights dancing a spectacular show above, is a distinct memory. But watching those huskies' paws bleed and crack during their 1100-mile, 22-hour-a-day run across the Alaskan tundra, was heartache for a dog lover. Susan Butcher, the famous multiple winner of the race, the one for whom was coined the popular slogan “Alaska: Where Men are Men and Women Win the Iditarod,” the great lady of pioneer spirit who beat the cruelest of winter elements but this year tragically couldn't beat cancer, assured me that the Alaskan husky lives to pull the sled across vast distances, lives to perform as perhaps the ultimate endurance athlete. Well, as that might be true, a few of the Alaskan huskies actually die each year, pulling sleds from Anchorage to Nome.

Motor sports offend me in their consumption of fuel. It's one thing to be bored by cars whipping around an oval. But I'm bored watching bowling, too. That same ten-pin formation every single time. But the bowler only consumes a lunch while those race cars guzzle thousands of gallons of the same precious fuel we are losing lives over in Iraq.

And speaking of consuming and guzzling, that brings me to the most offensive "sport" of all, if we can call it that. I was surfing the sports channels this past week-end, to land on ESPN and a series they call Great American Events. This particular day was hot dogs, but we've seen pies. And pancakes. In a limited amount of time, burly people line up to see how much of this specific food they can stuff down their throats. They have their hands tied for the pies. A gun goes off and they open their jaws wide, seemingly double-hinged, and immerse their faces in giant pies, inhaling voraciously. The hot dogs they cram two at a time into their mouths, before they've even swallowed the previous two.

When we see terribly disturbing images of Africans, desperate for even a swallow of water, children wasted down to bone, it's time to stop the gorging competitions. This is where I draw the line. And shame on ESPN for not drawing that line, too.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad