There are so many things to love about sports, so many moments and thrills. But, as I think about it, none of those really have anything to do with the question. Those are not the reasons I love sports. They are symptoms; the question is about the disease.
Upon further reflection, I have decided that what I really love most about sports is the impermanence. Sports are like war without all the dying. Imagine how intriguing war would be as a spectator sport if, when it was over, everyone shook hands and showered together. The strategy, the passion, the courage, the stakes; war is magnificent theater until you start counting bodies. That's where you lose me.
In sports, you never lose me. You plan your attack, prepare physically and emotionally, attempt to execute your game plan--often in hostile environments--and then it ends and you all have a beer together.
That is the beauty of sports. That is the reason I became a sportscaster in the first place, because of the impermanence.
You see, growing up I wanted to be a journalist--a real journalist. I wanted to cover politics and uncover corruption and ask the questions that topple the high and mighty. But all that changed when Andrew Donatelli drowned.
I never met Donatelli, but I'll never forget him. A high school senior in a small town where I was doing an internship at the local newspaper, the kid was headed to college on a football scholarship and was valedictorian of his high school class. He also had the prettiest girlfriend you could imagine and the saddest dog I ever saw. The night of his prom, Donatelli and a few buddies took their dates to a beach; some were drinking beer and others were allegedly smoking pot. Somehow that pretty girlfriend wound up in the water and Donatelli inexplicably drowned saving her. The next morning, the newspaper sent three of us on the story, one to the police station, one to the beach, and one--me--to the house to interview the parents.
I went. I stood on the porch. That was where I saw the dog. He came around the house from the backyard and stared at me. The dog was handsome but powerful looking, like a guard dog. I don't suppose there were many times a stranger could have stood on that porch without the dog barking, but this wasn't the day for that. He just watched me for a little while and then grew bored and flopped to the ground with his back to me. He didn't move after that, not in all the time I stood on that porch, which had to be an hour. I've never seen a dog so still. He wasn't asleep, either, just sad. Dogs may not understand everything, but they usually know when to be sad.
I couldn't ring the bell.
I had all my questions written in my yellow reporter's pad but I couldn't ask them; I knew it was my job but I just couldn't. I couldn't ask a woman I'd never met how it felt to go to Malcolm and Brothers Funeral Home on Worth Avenue at five in the morning with a football uniform and a navy blue Brooks Brothers suit because she couldn't decide which her son would have wanted to be buried in. I have all the respect in the world for people who ask that question, but I can't.
The experience really shook me up. It also made me wonder, for the first time, what I would do with my life. I had always wanted to be a journalist; now I would have to be something else. I told that to my adviser, in those words exactly.
"Have you ever thought about covering sports?" he said.
Funny that he barely knew me and still asked that.