no, i never got them, and they never got me.
(I’m bumping this post from last year’s NBA playoffs to commemorate the return of my favorite player, Chris Paul, to his stage of choice. It’s also far and away the finest piece of sports writing I’ve done to this point.)
No word suffers from imprecision in the English language as tragedy does. The effect has been to reduce a tightly defined concept to the description of anything that is merely sad or pathetic, thereby robbing it of its significance. A tragedy is a narrative, burdened by an implicit recognition of the ineluctability of fate, that manages to yield meaning out of suffering. In so doing, the tragedy fulfills two pleasures for the viewer: the emotional resonance of Aristotelian catharsis, and the ecstatic moral reaffirmation of life’s value inherent in the demonstration of its limits.
In one of his essays, Tom Wolfe suggests that the reason America is so sports-mad is that sports provide the closest artificial recreation of war possible. It only follows that football, whose physical consequences (and, therefore, opportunities for glory) is greatest, should be the dominant sport in the age of television. Though neither the NFL, nor MLB, nor the NHL lack for outsized personalities, all three sports are ultimately too democratic to yield the dramatic interplay of character necessary for tragedy; only the NBA, the most self-consciously aristocratic of the four major North American sports, satisfies the requirements.