I find it kind of weird that we seem to be able to have long, ongoing conversations about topics related to sports without acknowledging that sports are very important to the American people as a whole, and that we respect athletes, especially scholar-athletes, in the abstract, if not every particular.
For example, lots of people seem confused about why this particular racial slur brought down Imus, while previous ones haven't. Perhaps it is because he insulted athletes? To wit, rappers may call women "ho's," but do they call basketball players "ho's?"
This also bugs the crap out of me in all the discourse around games in education. Sports have a huge role in traditional American schools going back over 100 years, with a long ideological story. The difference between a "sport" and a "game" is not so great. Isn't video gaming treated as a sport in South Korea, for example? Should Spore be as important as football and basketball in an American school? Why or why not? This is a serious question.