• Sumo

By Ken Reed

I’ve always admired the work of Bryant Gumbel and the crew at HBO that puts together the show Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. They often do in-depth work on important sports issues of the day. They also will have compelling human interest stories on occasion. The show is blessed with several outstanding journalists in addition to Gumbel.

That said, Real Sports also has segments on a regular basis that I have little interest in, features on obscure sports or unusual sports-related topics.

However, this month’s show (May 2019) is simply excellent. The first segment is an outstanding — and very disturbing — piece on the hundreds of horses that die every year on American race tracks. It also looks at the gruesome practice of sending horses that aren’t fast enough any longer to slaughter. It’s a sickening and despicable business practice that needs to be stopped.

Nearly 10 horses a week, on average, died at American horse tracks last year. That fatality rate is anywhere from 2.5 to 5 times greater than horse tracks in the rest of the world. (See https://nyti.ms/2HOd5bz) A big part of the problem is that in the United States the use of performance-enhancing drugs and painkillers, on a regular basis, has devastating effects on a lot of horses. The use of these drugs is illegal in other countries.

The second feature this month looks at the heartwarming relationship between WNBA star Elena Delle Donne and her sister Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy and was born blind and deaf. The story reveals the deep love between the two sisters and examines why Elena Delle Donne turns down lucrative offers to play professional basketball overseas during the WNBA’s offseason.

Finally, there is a very important segment on the Norwegian youth sports system and how and why it’s the antithesis to the American youth sports system. (See “Norway Gets Youth Sports Right” https://bit.ly/2PKkVXl)

Youth sports in the U.S. are increasingly driven by the almighty dollar — e.g., AAU, club and travel teams, showcase tournaments, personal trainers, etc. Public health, whole child development, physical education, recreation, peer relationships and good old-fashioned fun are low priorities.

In Norway, the contrast with youth sports in America is striking. The focus for kids 12 and under in Norway is having fun and whole child development. What a concept! Scores of games aren’t kept and children aren’t ranked based on ability. High-priced elite travel teams simply don’t exist. After age 12, youngsters can choose to enter more competitive sports situations but it’s their choice. They aren’t forced by adults.

Focusing on having fun doesn’t mean champion athletes aren’t being developed in Norway. Norway, a country of only five million people, won more medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang than any other country.

These three excellent segments make up one outstanding monthly show. I highly recommend you find a way to watch the May 2019 edition of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans

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