DE-fense, DE-fense

BILL DWYRE is sports editor of The Times.

BEING A sports slug, I was in uncharted waters last week. I was reading the Op-Ed page.

My ilk doesn’t do that. We drink beer and belch and scratch a lot and don’t find our interest held by stories on the downward trend of the gross national product of Bahrain caused by the weakening of the euro. Our needs are simpler: Why do the Dodgers stink, and how many did Kobe score last night?

But I was lured by Patt Morrison’s article on next year’s Rose Parade grand marshal, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Morrison’s writings are always wonderfully witty, not to mention a tad witchy. Plus, I wanted to see whether the Rose Parade people were going to put the old Redskin running back, John Riggins, on the float with O’Connor and have him remind her, every mile or so, to “loosen up, Sandy baby.” But my eyes moved to the article below Morrison’s, to a piece headlined “Take me out of the ballgame.” Its author was David P. Barash, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington. I read every word without even moving my lips.


Barash opined that “the opiate of the masses isn’t religion, it is spectator sports.” He went on to say, in several different and snotty ways, that people who spend their time rooting for the home team are basically shallow, useless idiots. I personally have never felt shallow.

His goal seemed to be to rid American society, with one broad swipe of his poison pen, of spitting and sports bars. His tone said that for our culture to move forward, we need to eliminate Osama bin Laden and “Monday Night Football.” Or maybe he just meant John Madden, which is an argument I might be able to get behind.

It was almost as if sports had wronged him personally, that the resources wasted on games and steroid-stuffed baseball players had deprived him of several pipes and a new wardrobe of tweedy sport coats with patches on the sleeves. Or maybe it was much less complicated. Maybe he just wanted to sell some drivel to The Times, and we bought it. It happens. (See T.J. Simers, page 2, Sports section.)

My favorite part was where Barash suggested reforms for sports slugs; activities that might somehow return souls to our currently vacant and spiritually deprived inner selves. I quote, as I gag: “You might try reading a book, talking with your family, going for a walk, wrestling with the dog, listening to music or making love.”

Well, I don’t have a dog, my Eminem CD is broken, and I just finished my fifth reading of “My Prison Without Bars” by Pete Rose. So I got as risky as I could with my wife and asked if she wanted to take a walk. She called the doctor.

Being a sports slug means never having to say you’re sorry for being a sports slug. Being a professor at Washington probably means that if you do watch sports at all, it is likely your own university’s football team.

Suddenly, I am starting to understand.