Published 12:00 am Friday, January 30, 1998

By Harold Keller / L’Observateur / January 30, 1998

I have to admit that I really enjoyed the Super Bowl. The game, for achange, was exciting, and the outcome wasn’t certain until the finalseconds ran off the clock. The game, on a scale of 1 to 10, had to be a 10. The halftime show, in my opinion, on the same scale, was at the most a 5.For all the time and money spent, it was poor.

The commercials, which cost $1.3 million for each 30-second spot, areusually pretty good, but I thought they were really sad. The Pepsi Co.,especially, wasted a lot of money.I was amazed that John Elway, the Denver Broncos quarterback, who hadmost of the TV audience pulling for him and has a net worth of $75million, was so concerned about getting a ring. This only proves thatrecognition is more of a motivator than money.

Getting away from the game, I would now like to talk about the obsessionwe, as Americans, have for sports. I wonder how this affects us as asociety. We all know that many fathers have become “couch potatoes,”exercising only their fingers to switch channels. Many neglect their wivesand children to plug into the latest game, whichever that might be.

The time most of us spend with our children is to encourage them tobecome good athletes. We stress athletic competition andaccomplishment. We buy the best equipment for them and register them inall kinds of instructional programs to improve their athletic skills.When we attend their games, the only encouragement they get from mostof us is when they perform well. In fact, we are embarrassed when theirperformance doesn’t meet our ridiculous expectations of them.

Many parents, especially men, have a vision of their sons and daughtersgetting athletic scholarships to college and seeing them ride into theprofessional ranks with a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine who happens to be a coach. Hesaid that people don’t realize there’s more scholarship money foracademics than athletics. He continued by saying that a good CAT scorewith a good GPA can be a ticket to a free education and then on to a veryprofitable and rewarding profession.Athletes’ careers, regardless of how successful, last a very short time.After their career is over many professional athletes have no place insociety. Some are finished at 35 years or before.

It doesn’t make sense that many parents spend most of their timedeveloping athletes when they could be encouraging competition in theclassrooms which would be more beneficial, last longer, and be healthierfor our society.

Yes, I think athletics and academics can go hand in hand, but I think we areout of balance. We give banquets and trophies for kids who can make ajump shot in basketball, hit .300 in baseball, throw a football, or is goodat volleyball, etc., but we don’t make much over the child who is a 4.0student, studies hard, is polite, obedient, does community service andstays out of trouble.

Let me say that I am as guilty as anyone for making more over athleticaccomplishments than classroom performances. That coach got myattention. From now on, I’ll encourage my grandchildren to read more andimprove their study habits. I’ll still be interested in their participation inathletics, but stress more the importance of academics.

Harold Keller is a regular columnist with L’Observateur.

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