April 17, 2024

COLUMN: I can only go so far

Make your own case

A few days after Creston basketball girls’ last second win over Earlham, I told Brynn Tussey and her grandmother I could watch that game over and over again and never get tired of it. It was a lot of fun to be there.

That’s been the best sports-related highlight for me in a long while.

Larry Peterson’s column a couple of weeks ago about the growing toxicity in sports caught me by surprise and made me think about my own values and interests as a sports fan. And it’s not just toxicity that has brought me to this point. I have not hidden my concern for sports and how it has effected me as a fan.

The NFL ended its season Sunday with the Super Bowl. I was just thrilled a referee wasn’t a deciding factor. Mahomes is a great QB. Brock Purdy has started a wonderful career. But it wouldn’t be a week in the NFL without a referee call that is made or not made; had a possible impact on the result of the game; anxiety, toxicity and social-media hype increases for days; that all subsides; repeat next week. It gets old and fast.

It was hard to watch the Big 10 conference grow to a whopping 18 teams and it all debuts later this year. I disliked the growth to 14 teams in 2014. I tolerated it when Nebraska joined in 2011. Way too many teams now and too much of the Big 10′s legacy and traditions are severely damaged.

My guess is conference games not scheduled that would have had implications for final standings will embarrass the conference. Those scheduling problems started for me in 2014. Preliminary plans for its basketball schedule next year includes not every team will be invited to the conference tournament. So much for creating unity with growth. Bigger isn’t always better.

College officials should have had some regulations for the transfer portal and Name-Image-Likeness agreements. Hard to get excited when a player is on three different rosters in a four-year playing career. I understand the players wanting some kind of revenue from playing the games but the spirit of the amateur game has a price tag now. I have more appreciation today for the 1980 American Olympic hockey team and their story; a bunch of college-aged players doing it for the fun of the game and ideal of the Olympics at a time with tense relations with the Soviets. Historians say the team’s average age was 21.

The pitch clock, and other game rules, added to Major League Baseball did not improve my experience as a fan. I remember watching nine-inning games takes less than 3 hours 20 years ago. My fear is MLB caved into a part of society, all not necessarily MLB fans, who are beyond addicted to the immediacy of results from their smartphone and demand every facet of society be similar. Patience is a virtue, and a thing of the past.

Sheryl Swoopes, who was a standout woman college basketball player in the early 1990s, recently told some incorrect information about Iowa superstar player Caitlin Clark. Some Clark fans have taken it so far to put phrases against Swoopes on T-shirts. Bad information was said 40 years ago. Nobody put it on shirts. Society moved on.

Professional golf, with its strong culture of decorum, was tarnished over the weekend with fans’ actions in Arizona.

I support what Larry wrote and why. Larry used the innocence of his young grandkid’s basketball game as his positive sports moment. The sports algorhythms on my social-media feeds includes those sad and or disturbing moments between players and officials; fans/parents and officials; parents and players or a combination of all three. Sure, there were tense moments in games 30 years ago, but not to the extent we have today. Or is it just that much easier today to spread the word about what happened?

Sure, you want your team or kid-player treated right. Who doesn’t? At one point, the NFL estimated there are about 300 possible, annual openings for players at a time when they are at least 1 million high school players. You do the odds of making a team if a player survives college. Chances are astronomically greater the ref’s call won’t matter to the high school player next month or even into the next decade.

Call me getting old, resist change and have a “get off my lawn” like persona. I won’t deny it. But sports fans can fall under the customer category. If I’m not getting what I am comfortable with, I’ll go someplace else.

And take Ava Adamson’s pass to Kadley Bailey and her winning basket with me.

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.