'Why' can be difficult to answer

Questions about sports used to be so simple, so civil. Times change, though.

Mark Mangino is accused of abusing players physically and verbally, a contributing factor to the end of his coaching days at Kansas. But lots of people readily acknowledge that what Mangino is accused of is no different than what many other coaches in all sports do. Why do we still watch so enthusiastically?

Tiger Woods has the best of everything — he's the best at his sport, he has more money and more endorsements, he has a beautiful wife and two beautiful kids. Why isn't that enough?

Bob Knight tells a crowd at a fundraiser in Indiana that college basketball is lacking integrity, and that John Calipari is a prime example. "You see we've got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he's still coaching. I really don't understand that." It has the ring of truth. But why do we listen to Bob Knight?

The satisfaction we feel when our favorite team wins is one of the purest forms of happiness known to man. Why do we spend more time agonizing over the losses?

Woods' extramarital decathlon has surprised the world and cost him millions. Michael Jordan, the king of endorsements prior to Tiger's reign, was guilty of off-court malfeasance just as widespread, perhaps worse... but nobody ever really talked about it. Why is one worse than the other?

In January, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a session called "Legal Issues Relating to Football Head Injuries, Part II." Part I, in October, seems to have helped spur the NFL to action, creating stricter concussion-related guidelines. Why did it take so long?

Concussions are the latest hot-button piece of evidence — hello, common sense — that playing football at any level is hazardous to a person's health (joining arthritis, early-age dementia, heart disease and other life-shortening problems). But our kids still play football, and we still watch games at every opportunity. Why don't we care?

Michael Vick: Pariah. Ray Lewis: All-time great. Why are we outraged sometimes, but not others?

The Royals and the Pirates, two of baseball's most immaterial franchises for 15 years, each have inspired at least five seriously-interesting, often-entertaining fan-driven Web sites that thoughtfully discuss the teams' successes and frequent failures. Why are fans more faithful than dogs?

Athletes in every sport use chemicals and drugs — they knowingly cheat — with the expectation that they will improve their performance. We still watch?


Maybe the reasons we remain captivated by sports are complex. Or maybe they're simple. Maybe we love a feel-good story. We love a story where a team wins against the odds. A story where a player overcomes personal tragedy. A story where a nice guy finishes first. And when we can't find those stories, we're happy with a train wreck, too.

Maybe more than anything, we love a distraction. Sports is certainly that.