stoner steps

While I have covered many, many, many different topics in my columns this year — from how much I hate the Lakers to drugs in sports to ice skating to contraction in baseball to Mike Tyson — this column’s subject truly represents the dredges of the sporting society: the sports columnist.

Yes indeed, when I am reduced to writing a column about my own profession, that is when readers know the proverbial shit has not only hit the proverbial fan, but has knocked it out of the window onto a passerby.

However, this column will not be like a Discovery Channel special (“”Watch now as the reclusive sports columnist shambles to his computer early in the morning to ponder the finer dynamics of the complicated institution that is sports””). No, this will be an attempt to objectively look at the purpose, the effect, the space between sports and the professional sports columnists fill in today’s society.

OK, I must begin with a little side note: I lied. In the previous paragraph, I said this would be an objective look at sports columnists, but I believe columns are supposed to have subjective matter (i.e., opinions) within them — that’s a given. Opinion is inherent in any type of column, whether it is from the news, opinion, the community or the sports section.

That said, I believe sports columns stand a little separate from other types of columns. First of all, the whole concept of a sports column seems oxymoronic: The world of sports is a fact-oriented one: one of endless stats, notes and odds. Indeed, the massive reams of numbers could bury many times over anyone trying to disseminate it all. Yet, contrary to the idea of cold, hard, irrefutable facts, sports columnists offer opinions on these facts and the sports that should ideally be black and white, but are forever falling into the indistinguishable categories of gray.

But I think the existence of sports columnists is justified, created, propagated — validated, if you will — by the fatal flaw of facts: While they never lie, facts rarely tell the whole truth. Ask a baseball player who went 0-for-4 but hit line drives every time how his day at the plate was, and he’ll give you a completely different response than the batter who went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

Yet, both of them will have the same statistic in the box score.

Or ask the running back who has scored 10 touchdowns, all of them with runs of five yards or less. Or the player — Shaq, for example — who scored 40 points, but all of them from inside the key, less than five feet from the hoop.

For another example, take many of the UCSD athletic teams, most notably the men’s volleyball team. This season the Tritons sported a dismal record, winning only one league game. Yet they are playing some of the nation’s elite Division I scholarship-laden teams, including UCLA and USC, among others.

The fact is, when an umpire calls a strike, or a referee calls a foul or throws a flag, there is room for interpretation.

I believe it’s the responsibility of sports columnists to highlight those differences; to delineate those shades of gray distinctly; to make those single-dimension, boring, objective facts come to life; to breathe vibrant color where the real meat of sports lies.

Of course, others have their own opinions as to what sports columnists should do. The UCSD athletic department, for instance, believes that columns, if they do exist, should “”be limited to UCSD sports.””

I beg to differ, since, as sports editor, I am trying to appeal to the general student body’s interests, which, as all the empty seats at UCSD sporting events attest, is not UCSD sports. I believe the majority of the school’s population is interested in sports outside of UCSD. The fact that columns generate the most reader responses reinforces this belief.

Just a week or two ago, one of my fans told me to “”Go suck a dick you fuckin’ cunt”” in response to my “”I hate the Lakers”” column. I’ve also been called a “”fucking moron”” by a curling fan (I didn’t know those even existed) after I denigrated the Winter Olympics.

I personally think each one of these responses is great. Each response, each insult thrown my way, means a reader was moved enough, touched enough, became involved enough in my column to reply to me. Not that I particularly enjoy all the insults, but they mean that people actually are reading my column and that I’m not just pointlessly rambling to nobody in an effort to fill space in the newspaper.

I realize that trying to please everybody in this business is nearly impossible. That’s probably why I hate this job so much: I’m the type of person who just wants everyone to be happy, even if it means sacrificing my own interests. But however much time is spent (and believe it or not, there is a lot of time spent) on each sports section, there is always someone who won’t be happy.

But I have digressed from my original intent. I have been called many things, but concise and to-the-point isn’t one of them. I guess what I’m trying to say is columnists try to expand the space between the boring facts of sports and they should respond to the sporting interests of the community. They should insert opinions and try to elicit reader response. They should present the colorful world behind the lines to the readers.

Or they can just write a column about themselves.