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The remorse of an ESPN junkie

ESPN celebrated its 25,000th SportsCenter Sunday night. I of course, watched it. Twice.

Hello, my name is Jasen Liu, and I am addicted to ESPN.

Like so many of my fellow Duke students, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN.com have completely taken over my life. Even now, as I write this column, I am monitoring the latest Major League baseball scores on ESPN.com. If I studied for classes the way I read up on teams and games, I would be on my way to a Rhodes scholarship right now.

In all fairness, SportsCenter cannot be blamed entirely for the deterioration of my intellectual persona. My addiction to ESPN's continuous stream of highlights and top plays condensed into a slick package is only the manifestation of my pitiable obsession with sports in general.

True, there are those among you who easily surpass me in terms of sports fanaticism, but to define levels of addiction is pure semantics. The point is, in the past two years, my condition has evolved from that of a relatively normal, loyal Los Angeles Lakers fan, to a full-blown weekend-warrior sports nut. What began as an interest in professional basketball has expanded to encompass baseball, football, soccer, tennis--you name it, I will watch it.

The worst part of it all is that I have no true affiliation with any of these sports. As a child, I never participated in Little League or played a down of PeeWee football. One would think that a sports-addict such as myself would be six-foot three, wear jerseys with pro athlete names on them, and spend my free time practicing and excelling at the heretofore-mentioned activities.

Unfortunately, I am blessed with the athletic ability of a doorknob. Give me a sport that requires dexterity or coordination, and I'll show you why the word "inept" was created.

So why the love affair with sports, you ask? Aside from being incredibly entertaining, sports provide a common communication pathway for many people. Sporting events bring together people of different races, ages, socioeconomic classes and beliefs. One only has to attend a Duke basketball game to witness this amazing phenomenon.

Sports are the quintessential topic of conversation for many people. Two strangers can instantly connect to one another by discussing the numerous controversies and issues that embroil the sports world.

But as much as I would like to believe it, sports do not measure up in life. In the long run, sports amount to about as much as a game of chess--stimulating, addicting, complex, but ultimately only a game.  

Going to school here has not helped much in coming to this realization. In fact, my time here has only served to encourage this dependency. Many athletic teams at Duke are placed at the forefront, above most other campus organizations. Superstar athletes are given scholarships and preferential treatment from the University.

But it is unfair to condemn the University for this emphasis on sports, since American society in general is obsessed with these games. Professional athletes are placed on excessively high pedestals. Why should someone who runs fast be given more publicity and respect than a Nobel Prize winner who makes revolutionary discoveries?

This is not to say that I stand untouched above the remainder of society. If anything at all, I am more star-struck by athletes than your average Joe. Seeing Chris Duhon walking onto the bus causes me to become incompetent.

But I do realize that a society--and a university--that regards athletics and sports as highly as ours does has a problem with priorities. 

And so I say to you, my fellow sports addicted brothers and sisters: Resist the urge to watch consecutive episodes of SportsCenter; try reading something other than the Sports section in The New York Times. Escape from the prison that is College Football Saturday and NFL Monday Night Football.

Realize that life is not a sport. In the hierarchy of important social issues, sports sit at the bottom of the totem pole. At least until basketball season starts again.

Jasen Liu is a Pratt junior. His column appears every third Wednesday.

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