Thursday, September 06, 2007


I was getting ready to write a post ripping Leigh Bodden for his disorderly conduct arrest when I saw that Luciano Pavarotti, the great Italian tenor, died today. So I decided to scrap the Bodden idea and write about Pavarotti. What's an Italian opera star who isn't "the fat lady singing" got to do with sports? Maybe more than we sometimes acknowledge.

I think the same thing that attracts sports fans to their games is what attracted many people to Pavarotti. So, on a day when we've been provided with yet another example of stupid behavior by a pro athlete, Pavarotti helps to remind us about why we care about sports at all, and why that's a good thing.

Most of the time, sports and music are just pleasant diversions from daily life. But people don't become passionate about sports or music because they're diversions, they become passionate about them because at their very best, they offer us a chance to see things that can only be described as transcendent.

When you get right down to it, I think we watch sports because we hope to get a glimpse of a human being doing something that we know human beings just can't do. We don't see those moments very frequently, but they are what keep us coming back. That's because when we see LeBron James single-handedly defeat the Detroit Pistons, a crippled Kirk Gibson win a World Series game with a single swing, or a bunch of college kids beat the greatest hockey team in the world, we get a hint there may just be more to all of us than we think there is. Those transcendent moments give us reason to hope that the 8th Psalm's famous question -- "what is man that thou art mindful of him?" -- may actually have an answer.

I think the same thing is true when you hear a once in a generation voice like Pavarotti's. You don't have to appreciate opera to appreciate the vocal feats that he performed when he sang. Nessun Dorma, an aria from Puccini's Turandot, became his trademark (and, in a tribute to his popularity, ultimately a bit of a cliche). This performance at The Royal Albert Hall in 1982 shows you why his rendition of the aria resonated with so many people who wouldn't dream of sitting through an entire opera.

Nobody would ever mistake Luciano Pavarotti for an athlete, but like the greatest of athletes on their greatest of days, he gave us moments of transcendence. That's a tremendous gift, and those rare people who give it are missed when they depart.


The Professor said...


Joey Peeps said...

Rhino: Nice post, but watch out -- looks like Frank DeFord has pirated your user name and password.

jimmy zoom said...

What is Sebastian Cabot doing in that video?