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Wanted: G-rated athletics
Some troubling things going on with television sports broadcasts.

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Date published: 10/19/2003


TELEVISED SPORTS isn't just about the game anymore. It's about the cussin', and the prayin', and the fightin', and all the nasty prime-time promos sprinkled in.

That's not to say that this postseason hasn't served up some baseball for the books. And what would autumn be without football and the unlikely comeback victories we've seen so far?

But there are some aspects of the game and the telecasts that we just don't need to see. Here's one we get all the time:

The center-field camera shows the hitter connecting with a curve ball that didn't curve quite enough. In an instant his body language says this ball is going far out into the night. Then another camera follows its path over the left-field wall.

A third camera angle immediately brings us a close-up of the pitcher who is expressing his frustration with the expletive that you needn't be a lip-reader to understand.

The pitcher, of course, is not alone. He is in good company with the quarterback who just threw an interception, and the basketball player who just missed a key free throw.

For a word that is generally taboo, it sure seems to be broadcast frequently enough into our living rooms.

On the replay of that same home run, the hitter is shown rounding the bases and pointing skyward, apparently giving credit to the Almighty for his good fortune.

He is joined in that ritual, cheapening the meaning of religion, by the defensive back who made the interception and ran it back for a touchdown and the basketball player who just sunk the clutch three-pointer.

When things go wrong, anger is expressed in four-letter words--or worse. Success is strictly a blessing from God, not the result of skills honed through long hours of practice and years of experience.

Are these really the messages we need to be sending to kids? It's not only the players' fault but also the producers for making sure they cut to the right camera shot at the right time. Such sporting events are sometimes family fare at our house, and I cringe when I see ballplayers who kids think are cool leaving them with such impressions.

Why can't professional athletes simply play the game?

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