Every day there's another story about how the sports world is being affected by the economy. Leagues and teams are shedding employees, baseball free agents can't find work and stadiums are being used as examples of the profligate spending that got us into the mess in the first place.
Now comes word that Sandy Koufax was a victim of Bernard Madoff's massive fraud. He wasn't the only person from the world of sports who got dragged in by the criminal scheme, former Met Tim Teufel and former Islander Bobby Nystrom are also on the list, but he's the biggest name and fits in with the prominent Jewish investors who were among those hurt the worst by Madoff. Mets owner Fred Wilpon also fits that description, and his company was a big loser as well.
All of that is why sports has lost some of its ability to be an escape from the everyday. The sports page was the part of the paper you turned to for the relatively unimportant news of the day. A couple of hours in front of a game was a way to get away from your troubles, now though it only takes a few minutes before you see an ad for a company that helped eat away your pension or for a bank using your tax dollars to sponsor a stadium you aren't able to afford going to anymore.
When things are generally going well, that's important. In times when things are going the other way, though, it's even more important to have a distraction. That's why they kept playing baseball on World War II and why the 2001 World Series meant something to New Yorkers who weren't Yankee fans. Baseball didn't stop people from thinking about those things, obviously, but there was enough remove to make it feel safe and fun.
It was inevitable, of course, that the economy would affect sports. Still, it's painful to lose one of our refuges when the world feels like it's crashing down. After all, if something can beat Sandy Koufax, what chance do the rest of us mere mortals have?