'Sports make you forget death, taxes and politics and all the other garbage that goes on in life.' So said American Todd McFarlane, whose worth as a sporting psychoanalyst rose in direct relation to the millions he was willing to splash out on a piece of memorabilia. McFarlane, who created a comic empire, went a bit goofy and bid US$3 million to get his baseball glove on the ball that Mark McGwire whacked for his 70th home run last season. To be sure, if someone is willing to pay that sort of dough for a baseball he deserves his five minutes of fame and the odd quote or two in magazines like Sports Illustrated and Time. Taken in context, McFarlane's comments were sensible enough. The homer odyssey featuring McGwire and Sammy Sosa did help most of America forget their President's peccadilloes, their tax bills and the ultimate call to the great bullpen in the sky. But for the majority of sports fans around the world, who view baseball as glorified rounders and McGwire as the anabolic man, McFarlane's opinions were pure comic fare. Their credo was summed up by the late, great Bill Shankly when he said that football was not about life or death - 'it's more than that'. Shankly knew that derby matches between his Liverpool side and city rivals Everton and Glasgow clubs Celtic and Rangers were more about places in society than positions in the league. Just as Celtic Park on derby day reflects the religious divide in Glasgow, the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona is a shrine to Catalan pride. Real Madrid travelled there from the nation's capital last week for an encounter that is more political than football. It's a chance for Barcelona to show their superiority over the state standard bearers and the 3-0 scoreline will have meant more to the Barca supporters and the city than league titles and European glory. During this year's World Cup, the 'Mother of all Football Matches' between Iran and the United States had a decidedly political edge to it and any match-up between South Korea and North Korea will be highly-charged as the countries are still, technically, at war. Ditto, India versus Pakistan at any sport but, particularly, cricket. The Kashmir issue and the nuclear stand-off are magnified, not forgotten, when Saeed Anwar faces up to Anil Kumble and Wasim Akram bears down on Sachin Tendulkar. The quite extraordinary Asian Test Championship match between the two countries in Calcutta last week was regarded as a war, albeit one sponsored by Coca-Cola. When it became obvious that Pakistan were going to come out on top, the crowd of 85,000 started baying for blood and the match was halted under a hail of missiles. And as the angry fans were cleared from the ground it is a fairly safe bet that politics and death - if not taxes - were not very far from their minds.