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Good sports?

The ultimate question is whether sports on television enriches our lives, or ultimately takes away from us

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Truth be told, I've always been a little uncomfortable with sports, though I did enjoy playing them - most of the time, anyway. In high school we drilled for every football game like we were going to war, not playing a game or having some fun. Part of me liked that atmosphere - we were a small school playing much bigger schools in Toronto, but that kind of fanaticism had a dark side as well.

In the last game I ever played in senior year I was tackling a running back when a couple of lineman fell on the side of my leg and blew two ligaments. Instead of sympathy, I remember getting nasty looks after I was helped back to the sidelines because a younger and less experienced player replaced me at cornerback - and sure enough the other team exploited that to knock our team out of the finals. I was on crutches for six months (surgery wasn't a good option in 1991) but the feeling I let my team down was far worse than all those months of painful rehab.

Ostensibly, we're supposed to care about sports because watching sports is supposed to make us want to play them, and we all end up happier and healthier as a result. And it really does work that way sometimes - 2010 Olympic gold medallist Alex Bilodeau grew up wanting to ski like Jean-Luc Brassard, who won gold in 1994.

But while sports can make us healthy, they don't always make us happy. Ever seen somebody chuck a $300 putter into a creek after a quadruple bogey? A parent challenge a ref at a little league game? I remember playing 'E League' Slo Pitch in Whistler one year where another player on the opposing team started yelling because he "caught" one of our infielders wearing an outfielders glove. It can get ugly out there.

Over the years I've reached the conclusion that sports are a good thing to play, as long as we remind ourselves that it's always just a game. It's also okay to watch sports, in moderation, as long as you have the ability to put what you're watching into perspective - and promise yourself that the outcome is not going to affect your mood or make you upset for a week (or 18 years in my case - stupid Gretzky).

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