I went to ESPN.com the other day, and something finally hit me, after a lifetime spent accumulating what I think is a pretty significant amount of sports knowledge. We’ve gotten out of control. Sports have taken on a seriousness that no one could ever have intended. If you’re a sports fan, you are inundated – nay, bombarded – with ridiculously superfluous information with a degree of specificity that is just mind-boggling.

There’s ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN.com, CNNSI, CNNSI.com, Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, Street and Smiths, Sport Magazine, Pardon the Interruption, sports talk shows, sports reality shows, pre-game shows, post-game shows, award shows, newspaper columnists, online columnists, sports almanacs, sports comedians, sports psychologists, sports physicians, sports talk radio, sports apparel stores, sports memorabilia stores, memorabilia shows, memorabilia dealers, sports agents, sports betting Web sites, sports-themed restaurants. Sports are everywhere. And don’t even get me started on shoe companies. And all of this in a country where most people can’t pick out Iraq on a map. Who do you think is the better recognized figure in America, Shaq or Tony Blair?

It’s gotten so far out of control in this country that any idiot out there who has ever played sports and can put together intelligible sentences can get a job doing commentary. That’s how many jobs there are. Former – and awful – New York Knick Greg Anthony is working for ESPN doing basketball analysis. Greg Anthony!? He was terrible. I loathe him. I’d rather get my analysis from that chicken that plays tic-tac-toe. The only analysis Anthony could give is something like “Well, I don’t know much about how to win basketball games, but those uniforms are sharp.” Get out of my face, Greg. Same with Tom Tolbert.

It’s gotten out of hand. It’s just nuts.

So I have this message for the sports community out there (which I realize isn’t listening): get a life. Take yourself a little less seriously. These are games we’re talking about. Children play them. They’re fun; they’re not important. North Korea’s regenerated nuclear program is a serious issue; whether or not Terrell Owens should whip out a Sharpie after a touchdown is not. Affirmative action policy has the ability to affect the lives of people on a daily basis; a missed pass interference call doesn’t. Get a life.

This may sound strange coming from a guy who has spent a substantial portion of his life in front of a television, crunching statistics, arguing with my friends, fighting with my family, talking or thinking about sports. I love sports. To me, there is no more enjoyable pair of days in the year than the first two days of the NCAA Tournament in March. That being said, sports don’t control my life. For a disturbingly significant number of people in this country, I’m not sure that’s true.

Take, for example, Joe Lunardi, the self-described “Bracketologist” on ESPN.com. This is a guy who clearly suffers from a lack of something better to do. Right now, it’s something like 10 weeks until the NCAA Tournament. The season is something like a third of the way completed. But despite all that, there’s Joe Lunardi, picking not only what 64 teams are going to make the tournament, but what their seed is going to be and what site they will be assigned to. Speculation is fun, but this is really a bit much. Does this clown think that anyone is checking his irrelevant, stupid projections on Monday mornings every week, calling their travel agent and saying, “Illinois got moved to Boston; cancel my flight to Indianapolis. Yes, I know I called last week to switch my reservations from Tampa to Indianapolis. You see, the projections changed. Ok, thanks. Talk to you next Monday!” What a pathetic existence this guy has!

There was an article, like 1,000 words long, fairly well-written, about whether or not Gonzaga is going to get a lower seed than one might have thought earlier in the season. I think I speak for nearly everyone in the world who does not or did not attend Gonzaga University when I say: “I don’t care. Leave me alone.” I mean, honestly, the NCAA Tournament is getting more coverage than the Democratic nominees for president, and those guys are applying for a job of which the responsibility includes the authority to make the planet explode. I think Fresno State’s post-season seeding could stand to take a few steps down on the importance ladder.

Here’s another guy who needs a girlfriend: Mel Kiper, Jr. For those of you who live in a sports cave between the end of the college football season and the NFL draft, Kiper is the guy responsible for filling the airwaves with endless drivel about every Tom, Dick and Harry’s speed in the forty-yard dash. He gets very excited about “scouting combines,” where college football prospects get examined more thoroughly than artistic masterpieces. You can just see Kiper and his fellow dorks probing and poking linemen with calipers and agonizing over the comparable body fat percentages of 345-pound men. These are enormous, big, fat, huge guys; worrying about whether or not they have 25.2 percent body fat or 25.3 percent body fat is, as a wise man once said, slicing the bologna a little too thin.

The first person I thought about when Miami running back Willis cGahee got injured in the national championship game was Kiper. I sat there imagining his head spinning around violently and rushing to his enormous depth chart, frantically trying to assess the ramifications of McGahee’s injury on the rest of the draft. Talk about living a derivative life; some 20-year old kid you’ve probably never met tears a ligament and your entire world gets turned on its head. That, if you ask me, is just plain sad.

So here is a brief list of people who need to get a life. Many of them do work for ESPN, but I do not by any means think they are better or worse than any of the other bottom feeders that have infested the world of sports. In no particular order: Dick Vitale. Jay Bilas. Tom Arnold. Joe Beningo. Mel Kiper, Jr. Mel Kiper, Sr., just for good measure. Andy Katz. Tim Sullivan. Hubie Brown. The guy who runs collegerpi.com. Chris Mortensen. Lee Corso. Len Pasquarelli. Rob Neyer. Anyone who posts messages on sports-related Web sites more than twice a day. The list goes on and on, and this is by no means an exhaustive one.

For the love of God, when you watch the NFL playoffs this Sunday, which I certainly encourage you to do, just watch the game. Don’t calculate ratios of anything. Don’t make any bets on them. Just sit back and watch the damn game.

It’s a game. We love sports; they can teach us powerful lessons. Athletes can be wonderful role models. But they play children’s games for a living. Calm down about it already. Go to a movie. Read a book. Get a hobby. Get a life.

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