The Washington Post’s Norman Chad observes Illinois’ verbal abuse of Indiana’s Eric Gordon and Kevin Hart’s ill-advised recruiting hoax and concludes “the Roman Empire and ours have scary similiarities”.
As noted by the Roman poet Juvenal, all Romans were interested in was “bread and circuses.” The famed Circus Maximus — despite exorbitant ticket prices and inadequate parking — was filled every weekend with wrestling matches, lute concerts and monster chariot pulls.
It was a land in which supreme prosperity led to base gratification. In the year 63, for instance, Nero fired his chief of staff after a fourth-place finish in his fantasy gladiator league.
Other sporting excesses were in overabundance:
* – secondary schools let out early to watch the World Series of Rock Throwing.
* – Institutions of higher learning were handing out javelin scholarships like so many beads at Mardi Gras.
* – Marcus Aurelius tried to use public monies to implode the Colosseum and replace it with a retractable-roof facility.
* – Several top marathoners reportedly were using bottled water brought in from Crete.
Well, the imperious Romans eventually tumbled — to this day, you can’t get a good steam and a rub in that part of the world — and, centuries later, Team USA reigns. But, my friends, we are teetering in broad daylight, for we love our games often at the expense of our needs.
I am reminded of something ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said before the Ohio State-Michigan football game in 2006: “When I was in high school, when I started to realize I was going to play at a pretty high level of football in college and it was the middle of the Cold War. . . . I used to go to bed praying to hold off nuclear bombs until I got a chance to play in the Ohio State-Michigan game.”
He got his wish, and on the downside of American civilization, the band plays on.