Thomas Sowell

If our era could have its own coat of arms, it would be a yak against a background of mush. This must be the golden age of endless and pointless talk.

Every sports events seems to be preceded by all kinds of talk -- whether by athletes repeating cliches that we have heard a thousand times, announcers making pseudo-profound sociological observations, or fans rambling on incoherently.

Then after the contest come the childish celebrations, the second-guessing and still more cliches.

Even when the action is going on at grand slam tennis matches, there are interviews with celebrities who happen to be in the stands, while the play on the court is ignored by both, even though it is shown on the screen.

Theatrical hype on the part of both the interviewer and the celebrity are common.

Does it ever occur to media chatterboxes that people watch tennis because they want to see tennis, not hear about some celebrity's latest movie or TV series?

If those who lived during World War II were "the greatest generation," this must be the gratingest generation.

It's not just the constant meaningless chatter that grates. There is the incessant self-dramatization.

Everybody knows about Manny Ramirez's hair styling. But there have been many other sluggers over the years, whose haircuts were never noticed. Does anyone remember Ted Williams' haircut or the haircuts of Mickey Mantle or Hank Aaron?

All those people are remembered for what they did, not how they looked.

Boxers and wrestlers must be the worst. Outlandish get-ups and behaving like badly raised brats have become the norm.

When you see old films of Joe Louis or Rocky Marciano, you see adults acting like adults-- indeed, like gentlemen.

There was none of this making faces at an opponent before the fight or loudly boasting afterwards, much less taunting during the contest. In other words, you didn't have to act like a lout in order to be a boxer.

When Joe DiMaggio hit a ball that was caught up against the 415-foot sign in Yankee Stadium by a Dodger outfielder, at a crucial point during the 1947 World Series, DiMaggio briefly kicked the dirt in frustration while running the bases.

That was as close to an emotional outburst that DiMaggio ever came. That picture has been shown innumerable times, precisely because it was so exceptional for DiMaggio to go even that far.

Like so much that went wrong in American society, the new style of loutish self-dramatization began in the 1960s. When Muhammad Ali became heavyweight champion in 1964, it marked the end of the era when boxers simply did their job, collected their money and went home, usually after a few brief words.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate