There are no steroids to be taken on this day. There are no doses of human growth hormone. There is nothing new on the scene. The supplements of choice today are Hamburger Helper and maybe a large Diet Coke.
"Take this," a trainer, a friend, a teammate suggests, holding out a vial of the other stuff. "It'll put a skip in your step. Especially at contract time after you hang up those big numbers."
"No thanks, my friend," the athletes of professional sport reply. "I'm doing just fine eating my carrots and broccoli."
Every 100-mph fastball is a pure product of physiology, exercise and clean living. Every tape-measure home run is a measure of innate ability. Every oversized football body was a gift. There are no shots for pain to get those hockey players and basketball players back into action this late in the season, no mood elevators to make a Tuesday night in Cleveland in front of a few thousand people bearable. These are games that are played the same way they were played in the neighborhood with your friends. Everybody's just having fun.
"I'd do this for nothing," superstar tells superstar.
"I'd pay to do it," the second superstar replies.
This is the truth for today.
* * *
The kids in the men's basketball Final Four are just like the other college kids. Another truth today. Hey, they might be playing against each other for a national title this weekend, but during the week they're worried about that big Elizabethan Literature test. Or maybe that Psych 101 quiz. Or that term paper about Nineteenth Century European Colonialism on the African Continent.
"Quiz me again," power forward says to nifty point guard as the bus leaves practice at the mega-stadium. "Not Shakespeare. I've got him down. Give me someone else."
"OK, talk to me about Edmund Spencer," nifty point guard says.
There are no athletic dorms. There is no cadre of advisors to pick courses from deep and secret places in the catalog, to plea bargain a grade, to proofread that paper. These kids do the same things everyone else does on campus, except they play basketball as a student activity instead of singing in the glee club or working on the yearbook. They eat the same ramen noodles. They do their own laundry. They always need money, time, maybe some better clothes.
Their extracurricular greatness might have attracted interest, but their good grades and solid test scores opened the admissions door in the end. All of them carry a strong course load, working toward a degree in a worthwhile major. Most would like to continue to graduate school.
"I don't want a cheap, back-door degree," the all-conference center from State U says. "I want a degree that means something."
This is the same situation for all the players in the Frozen Four, the BCS championship, the College World Series, any and all revenue-producing sports. Practices are easy. School is fun. These are just kids who came to college to get an education and play a few games at the same time.
* * *
The owners of sport are all community-minded souls. They don't think about profits today, they think about the cities. To own a team is to be the caretaker of a public trust. Nobody owns the air, the water, the parks, the local works of art, the spirit, the bounce of a city. Nobody really owns the local five, six, nine or 11.
The idea that the professional sports team is a corporate machine, grinding out the last dollars from everyone's wallets is ludicrous. The team is as pure in intent as the Red Cross, the YMCA, the local Meals on Wheels.
"My goal is to provide affordable entertainment and a winning team," the owner says. "We're going to keep ticket prices down so families can attend more than one ball game a year. (And without taking out a second mortgage! Hah!) We're going to find players who will not only win, but fit into the community. When we stand at city hall with that cup/trophy, whatever it is, this will be a shared experience."
The players have bought into this concept. They feel they are part of the city. This is their new hometown. This is where they will raise families, retire, live out their lives. The money situation -- the crazy money these days -- might offer a few million bucks somewhere else, but who can put a price on love?
There will be no more protracted negotiations. Ownership will be fair. The players and their agents will be fair. All hands will be pulling on that same community rope.
"Love me and I will love you back," the home run hitter says to the fans. "I hear you yelling my name when I am doing my great things on that field. Thank you. That is what matters."
* * *
There is no cursing today on the ball field, no taking the Lord's name in vain on the court. There are no penalties at the ice rink except the ones committed by mistake. There are no overbearing coaches in the locker rooms. There are no overbearing parents in the stands. There are no egos anywhere, not even with the umpires and referees.
Women athletes have all the same advantages and attention that men have always had. Television promises never to schedule games in the middle of the night or the middle of the afternoon, whichever is the problem in your time zone. The remembered greats of the game are all wonderful, never troubled by human foibles of any kind, a fine collection of ethereal sports presences.
Your team -- professional, college, whatever -- now is going to win everything you want it to win and do it without scandal. Your favorite player is going to come to your house and explain how it all is done. Golf has become easy, a sport that can be mastered. Sport is exactly what you always wanted it to be, pure and sweet and perfect.
The Tour de France is just a bike ride.
* * *
Happy April 1, 2014.