Sweetness And Light

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light

The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK, here's an irony our commentator Frank Deford has noticed. While many pro American athletes are super-rich, the leagues they play in are becoming bastions of equality.

FRANK DEFORD: Yes, yes, this is about sports. So whatever your ideology, this brief time is supposed to be a respite from politics. But bear with me. You see, political innocent I may be, but I find great irony in that while everybody agrees that there is massive inequality in the United States today, the one percent and the 99 percent business, and not since the Gilded Age, et cetera, it's now in sports where the American Dream still lives more than ever.

It used to be, when social mobility was at its apex here, that was the reverse in sports. The leagues were invariably dominated by dynasties. The Yankees, of course, were the American pharaohs. The Celtics ruled basketball, the Canadians hockey, the Browns and then the Packers football. Once you got to the top, a team or a franchise tended to stay in the social register. Bad teams, most often in the smaller cities, remained a permanent underclass.

But now with salary caps and benevolent socialism, if a team has wise management, it has a chance - even if it's a franchise in an itsy-bitsy market. Can you believe that the four teams with the best records in the NBA now are Indiana, Portland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City representing four of the 10 smallest metropolitan markets in the league? The rich in American sport really aren't guaranteed to just get richer anymore. The middle-class still can aspire to the championship country club.

And the people of flyover country who distrust that elite New York-Washington snob axis are in hog heaven. Not a single one of the nine - count them - nine New York area teams have either made the playoffs or look like they're going to this year - all that money, all that clout, and all bums.

And Washington teams aren't much better than Washington politics. The Nationals collapsed, the Redskins are a joke franchise, nasty name to boot, and the Wizards aren't living up to their nice name. Well, the Capitals are winners, sort of. But then no formula is perfect. Wrigley Field will be a hundred years old this spring and the Cubs are still losers, a hundredfold.

Sports also truly celebrates today what used to be another certified Americanism: the second chance. All sorts of regular-season mediocrities, like the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, have gotten hot with a wild card or a low seed and won it all.

So if Horatio Alger has no place left in American society, in the arena he's still suited up, pleading: Send me in, Coach. Of course, there are always exceptions. Did I mention the Cubs? And, of course, some things never change. I did mention the Cubs, didn't I?

GREENE: This never changes, Frank Deford joins us Wednesday. On MORNING EDITION from NPR News, I'm David Greene.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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Sweetness And Light

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light

The Score On Sports With Frank Deford