There is no bigger example of how sports rules American life than the NFL draft going on this week in Philadelphia.
For several weeks, traffic has been diverted around the site near the iconic Art Museum, and it will be diverted for several more weeks while they set-up and clean-up the massive structures that are being erected to commemorate the religion that is professional football.
So, what's going on? Well - a professional football league (the National Football League) is drawing names in a progressive order, to declare which college players will be eligible to play for them in the upcoming season. Sounds important, right? Oh - no? Well, it's pretty important, if you stop to look at what's going on in the city.
Streets around the Art Museum have been blocked off for a couple of weeks, and more are being blocked every day. We didn't do this much when the Pope came here. These are young adults playing football, fer-Christ-sakes. Supposedly, the largest stage ever built in North America is being built for ... what? 22-year-old's running up to hear their name called to become part of the National Football League. That sounds important, right?
Meanwhile, other 22-year-old's are graduating with high honors at colleges across America, and they are fortunate to have a cake and a dinner with their family. I know, some of them are getting expensive cars and gifts ... from their families ... but there is no national league of (oh, I don't know) accountants or scientists giving them a big stage to come up and get a hug from the head of the Big Accountants of America or the National Scientific American Association (assuming either of those exist) upon their successful graduation with something close to a 4.0 grade-point-average.
Well, wait ... these kids on Thursday ... what? Ran really fast and jumped higher than their fellow student --- um, student athletes -- so it's only fitting that we shut-down an entire city for a month to reward them with a hug from the head of their employer and a two-hour stint on national television.
That seems fair, right?
After all, who will contribute more to society? A guy who spends four years running an oblong object up and down a grass field for our entertainment or an honor student who discovers a cure for some disease or declaring some new scientific principle? It's a no-brainer, right?
Yes, the term no-brainer is a particular problem with me, but I digress.
The glorification of sports in society is the problem. It is fed by the saturation of media and their obsession with people who can jump high or run fast over those who can think or react. It's not that it isn't important, it's that it isn't that important - or as important as we make it.
Think about it - three days, and countless hours of network television time over a professional sports league picking players to work for them.
Get a grip, America.