Lifting sports to opera |

Lifting sports to opera

Don Rogers

A World Series country became the Super Bowl nation. What’s next? X Games?Nah, that’s a progression from a different root, the Olympics. America only goes nuts for Olympic sports every four years, but the tug on our vestigial patriotism has us pulling for athletes in events we ignore those other three years and 49 weeks.When was the last time you watched a track meet on television, or thought about Apollo Ono? Case closed.Oh, skier Bode Miller is kicking up some snow these days. Various harebrained comments about racing “wasted” and the merits of doping rules, along with calling out Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong while on the subject, have earned him headlines and magazine covers. Is this a great country or what?He’s correct about the big bad media, all right. Just not quite in the way he thinks. He whines about being quoted, accurately, but no real gripes about being the cover boy, the center of attention, for talking as wildly as he skis. Nah, this has the smell of calculation – his and the editors’. Underneath the drama, make no mistake, this guy loves it.And we love it. Our sports operas are so much richer for the bad boys, the mavericks, the villains. Among the juiciest is the once “squeaky clean” Kobe Bryant turned into the worst of the NBA’s bad guys, corporate even. Eagle County is at the center of that play, with Kobe’s antics coming to light in a Cordillera hotel room.Bode barfing in Beaver Creek bathrooms, among others on the World Cup tour, is no big deal unless the star hints at it on “60 Minutes” just before the big Games. Ski racers party. Now there’s a surprise.The vintage Super Bowl loses something without Terrell Owens, the NFL’s bad boy who lit up last year’s game on a broken ankle, if not quite topping Janet Jackson’s flash of breast the previous year.There’s Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter trying his best to talk big, but it ain’t really. The prevailing story lines are too … heartwarming. Star running back Jerome Bettis plays the last game of his career in his hometown. Can his coach finally win the big one that defines the Pittsburgh homeboy as worthy of the great coach he replaced?Nice. Very nice, even. But yawn. Can’t the Seattle Seahawks star, Shaun Alexander, at least scowl instead of smile? Maybe trash his own quarterback and coach for not giving him the ball on every down? Boxing used to be so good at this. Then it got as phony as world wide wrestling. This column is being written before the big game. The author, like everyone else across the country, is headed to a party where the game will be on. A few of us might even watch.The X Games, which just concluded – what a sports cornucopia this time of year! – has tons of potential. The field looks filled to the brim and spilling over with rebels and mavericks and punks. Never mind the partying after the contests. You wonder what they are doing before their runs to get wound up for their amazing tricks.If it’s bad boys and girls (don’t forget Tanya Harding) we demand to lift our sports dramas beyond mere contests, the X Games provides an abundance. Marketing types might count their blessings. But they shouldn’t. The X Games are cursed with the opposite challenge of the Olympics.It’s not villains alone that make a story. It’s the tension, the conflict beyond the natural one in competition. All “good” or all “bad” won’t cut it. The Olympics needed the Soviets, the Super Bowl the Raiders, the Series the Yankees to transcend the games themselves, to create clashes you just had to watch. Good versus bad. Both.The X Games needs a star or two who don’t flash funny hand signals as if suffering Tourette’s, reek of pot, and shove their equipment into the camera lens after each run to promote their sponsors. The event is dying for an anti-maverick to break the monotony, to set up the opera, give the event real personality beyond the endless waves of the same tricks and grommets. Just as the Winter Games, lacking the Eastern Bloc, will have to make do with America’s other reckless cowboy. You know, that just might be enough.Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14600, or editor@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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