Wednesday July 14th, 2010

Now that those awful soccer horns have finally stopped blowing, could we please maybe all quiet down and perhaps just have some nice, subdued games? Good grief, has sports ever endured such a summer of excess? Everything has been overdone, over-long, over-emphasized, over the top. And, of course, most of it has been foisted on us, relentlessly, by the television network of which sports is now a wholly-owned subsidiary: ESPN ... or, more accurately: ExcessPN.

It was ExcessPN, of course, which brought us, above all, the tackiest display of televised exploitation since Geraldo Rivera opened up Al Capone's secret vault to reveal ... nothing. As LeBron James said so modestly: "I'm taking my talents and going." Has any immodest body -- politician, actor, artist -- who specializes in the excess business ever announced their departure by describing it as a vast talent resettlement?

And, LeBron: Don't forget to take your ego, too.

And for unwanted international excess, Lance Armstrong has returned, bringing along his talents and all the new, more serious allegations against him, to help divert attention from the Tour de France itself.

The baseball all-star game was played Tuesday night. It used to be an honor to be selected. But now, you get chosen and if you want to show up, fine. If not, we'll just bring in a whole new batch of players. Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated's superb baseball authority, counted up the number of so-called all-stars and found that a full 30 percent of major league regulars are all-stars this year. A little excessive? It's like a children's birthday party, where everybody gets a prize just for showing up.

Wimbledon's only highlight was that dreadful 70-68 set. Look, yes, the two players get credit for surviving, and we got to vicariously enjoy a freak show on ExcessPN, but what such an endless exhibition really tells us is that games today last excessively long and must have a proper tiebreaker to end it. Seventy to 68 is not natural; it is botox tennis.

And, of course, there continues the excess of sports stupidity. As the World Cup showed us repeatedly, the foolish old men who run every sport must accept technology, and whenever a replay shows that a mistake is made by a referee, it must be corrected. Otherwise, if we know what we saw is different from what the score says, sport is a fraud.

Finally, for simple, disgusting, all-around all-American excess, we were treated to the annual hotdog eating contest at Coney Island, televised, of course, on ExcessPN. Some people miss the point. They ask: Is stuffing wieners in your mouth a sport? Rather, the question is: Is watching other people stuff wieners in their mouth a sign that we are just tired of too much real sport? Do you get the feeling sometimes that we all live our lives in a sports bar?

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