LONDON—Speaking in measured, purposeful tones, NBC Olympic sportscaster Bob Costas is at this moment very close to comparing the current badminton match-fixing controversy to the 1919 Black Sox scandal, sources have confirmed. “As sports fans, we’ve come to expect greatness from our heroes, and the present badminton scandal reminds me of how, at times, those heroes can fail us, and fall short of our expectations,” said Costas, his unbreaking gaze fixed directly on the camera. “Why do we watch sports? Why are we drawn to the sights, the smells, the larger-than-life personalities? The sound of the hot dog vendor, the crack of the bat, the call of ‘strike three’ after an Eddie Cicotte knuckleball has sailed into the catcher’s mitt, a perfectly hit shuttlecock, the roar of the crowd at old Comiskey Park. We cherish our athletes. In some sense we hold them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. They become the measuring stick for all we strive to be. They play, not on some sandlot on the outskirts of Chicago or some backyard badminton court in Beijing, but in cathedrals built in their honor. Cathedrals where they stand at the altar of greatness while we look up to them and say, ‘Show us. Show us the grace and poise and raw talent it takes to track down a shot to left center or perform a backhand net kill.’ However, sports isn’t just about poetry in motion, or the physical ballet of jump shots, double plays, and forehand smashes. It’s about our heroes serving as torchbearers—no pun intended—not only for the sport they represent, but for the fans who look up to them. Lou Gehrig, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, Casey Stengel, Walter Payton, Wayne Gretzky, Jim Thorpe, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Han Jian, Larry Bird, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Rod Laver, Joe Lewis, Roy Campanella, Roberto Clemente, Arthur Ashe, Zhao Jianhua, and Muhammad Ali—people who played their respective games with integrity. The unfortunate events that took place here in London are an example of what happens when our heroes falter and break our hearts. Imagine the face of the 10-year-old badminton player who just realized that everything he’s come to believe in isn’t true—that his heroes are just people, people who aren’t perfect, who disappoint, who don’t always live up to our ideals.” At press time, Costas continued to speak.
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