While most live sports are currently on hiatus, it’s likely that we will turn to sports TV shows and movies to to feed our fandom. But why are we so fixated on these physical heroes?
From the ancient Greeks to today’s multiplicity of live sports channels, humans have always been obsessed with sporting prowess. Top athletes command massive salaries, celebrity status and the adoration of millions. But it’s no easy life. First, they have to be blessed with talent. Then they need to pour hours and hours of hard work into perfecting that talent, all while knowing that the regime of training and the potential for accidents could finish their career in a flash.
That is perhaps why the upsurge in sports-oriented TV series in recent years show as much of the brutality of this life as they do the sweet taste of victory. The beloved Friday Night Lights, chronicling the ups and downs of a small Texan town’s football team, opens with the star quarterback suffering a brutal injury on field that forever ends his hopes of stardom. Spinning Out, a dark glimpse into the world of figure skating, features a star whose crash during competition may have traumatized her so badly that she can never skate as well again. Both Dare Me and Cheer on Netflix take on the extreme physicality of competitive cheerleading, from a fictional and documentary viewpoint, respectively.
Even a comedy show like Ballers takes on the darker side of fame and how injury can make or break a career in football. It is perhaps this very element of luck that makes sports so thrilling. While athletes are on top, they seem like gods, but one misstep and they’re like Icarus, flying too close to sun and getting burned.
In real life, our sports heroes take steps to mitigate for those missteps. They insure themselves against accidents on and off-field. And if they’re lucky, they get the right advice on how to invest their considerable fortunes for retirement, which usually starts in your 30s when you’re a sporting legend. Athletes are also better taken care of today than they once were, with more focus on preventing injury and long-term repercussions from repeatedly pushing the body to its limits.
And, in the end, there are the victories, the improbable triumphs, the hard-fought and hard-won championships, and the teams and individuals that drive the whole theater of professional sports. Those of us looking for a fix can check out any of the TV series above (if you haven’t already) or turn to these other documentaries and shows such as:
The Last Dance: the most talked about new sport doc series of the pandemic lockdown, it chronicles Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls historic 1997–98 championship NBA season.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive
When We Were Kings
McEnroe/Borg: Fire & ICE
Dark Side of the Ring
Eastbound and Down
Through good times and bad, our sports heroes remind us that we can touch the sky and aspire to greatness.
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