Pondering life’s big (sports) questions

He just turned 4. My grandson’s questions are getting tougher with each passing month.

From a discussion about rust on lawn furniture to a dissertation on bumblebees to an explanation of how electricity moves through wires in such a way to make the toast pop up, Papaw is challenged in new ways with each visit.

Soon, I hope Benton’s questions will turn to sports. Sweet, innocent questions about the joy of simply competing — I can handle those.

Then again, is that really today’s sports world? With much of what goes on these days, I am not sure I have the answers.

That got me wondering how to respond to these ponderings.

Why doesn’t anyone like A-Rod?

On Saturday night in Baltimore, the New York Yankees’ designated hitter became only the second player on record to reach 2,000 career RBIs, and he did so by connecting for career home run No. 666. The only thing more surreal would have been if the moment would have included Rodriquez’s 3,000th hit. At 2,995, that time likely will come this week.

What do we do with the steroid-hyped megastar who is proving he remains a pretty good player even without the juice?

The reaction in Baltimore mirrored that of the baseball world; it was the sound of one hand clapping.

A-Rod, the somewhat aloof counter to infield mate Derek Jeter’s popular persona, seems destined to be baseball’s most disliked legend. I’m OK with that.

Why are the last two minutes of a close basketball game longer than my nap?

A highly entertaining finals between Cleveland and Golden State has turned my view of the NBA product. Almost.

The tedious parade of timeouts at the end of close games kills the moment. I know coaches get paid to coach, but let the players who make 10 times as much just decide things on the court. A stoppage after every free throw or dead ball in the final 120 seconds is excruciating.

Sure, the suspense builds. But I can bottle-feed and change Benton’s baby sister before the last horn sounds. Enough.

Why did Pete Rose bet on baseball?

Of all the bad that good people sometimes do, this confounds me the most. I understand juicing. I understand trying to gain an advantage with equipment. I even understand anger away from the arena. I don’t condone it, mind you, but I understand where it comes from.

In Rose’s case, however, there is no empathy. He wasn’t trying to get an advantage, not overtaken by emotion. No, he had plenty of time to think about it. And then he broke Major League Baseball’s First Commandment. He bet on the game.

Many will try to argue that the passage of time should ease the penalty, that a lifetime shouldn’t really be just that. As the All-Star Game comes to Cincinnati this July, you will hear it.

Sorry, some things just cannot be excused.

Why do bad people make $83,333 a second?

Life’s not fair. Sometimes your sister gets two cookies and you get none. That’s just the way it is.

That’s why boxer Floyd Mayweather — an abusive, scum of a person by all accounts — just made $180 million, $83,333 a second, to fight another man.

Talent is not allocated according to virtue. If it was, Mother Theresa might have had a wicked left hook.

Instead, Mayweather is one of sport’s richest men. And also one of its most undeserving. Perhaps his career is a reminder that talent and riches are fleeting. No matter how momentarily spectacular, they matter little compared with virtue and integrity.

Why did Lauren Hill die? Life’s not fair (see above).

But sometimes our purpose here is bigger than the stopwatch we’ve been given. That was the case with Hill, the vibrant Mount St. Joseph’s basketball player who turned the last months of her cancer-ridden life into a perfect example of the power of sport.

The mission of the 19-year-old from Lawrenceburg after her diagnosis was to raise money for cancer research. She challenged America to help find a cure for all cancer.

Even though she lost her battle, her spirit lived on Sunday, as the Indiana Fever named her an honorary captain and raised money in her name.

“She played the sport that we loved. She loved the sport we love,” Fever coach Stephanie White said.

What a wonderful epitaph. And what a wonderful message to give my grandson when questions about sports arise.

Yes, Benton, there are things that we cannot understand or accept. But sports, at their most pure, are about finding an activity we most love and love it with all of our might. It is also using sport as ladder to climb to heights that we might otherwise not reach.

Hill did that in her short time here. I hope that my grandson be given more time, but that he also find that joy that comes from the love of sport.

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Bob Johnson is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.