Over the course of my life I’ve heard many instances of spousal abuse, child abuse, illegal gambling, dog fighting and other pretty nasty things perpetrated by various professional athletes. Some are dealt with reasonably well (Michael Vic comes to mind), some not too well (the NFL’s initial reaction to Ray Rice) and some are still being debated (there are some who still argue that Pete Rose should be in the baseball hall of fame). Along with those activities there are always some self-appointed sports pundits (is that actually a thing?) who claim that what a person does on the outside has nothing to do with the game. This is apparently why Michael Vic was re-hired by an NFL team after he served his time for promoting dog-fighting and why many think that Pete Rose’s gambling offenses shouldn’t detract from the fact that he was the all-time major league leader in hits, among many other things.
Those who try to separate the man and his reputation from his performance as an athlete miss one important point about professional sports-without the reputation of the athlete, professional sports is a meaningless endeavor which does nothing more valuable than allow some over-medicated, steroid-enhanced, pituitary cases and their bosses to make more money than most of us will see in our lifetime, so that the rest of us, (well, some of us, anyway) can sit on a couch with a six-pack and a bag of Cheetos and wish we were them.
Professional sports is nothing without its “heros” (yeah, some people still call them that) so that the younger and less evolved of us can look up to them as, somehow, more complete humans than the rest of us. These people are revered because they can propel an object higher, faster or more accurately than the rest of us, while fending off those from the other team who would try to stop them. That’s about it. That’s why we pay them so much money, give them awards and allow them the best tables in restaurants. And its why many of them think that the laws that most of us cleave to are not relevant to them.
There is nothing more vacuous than a professional athlete’s chosen “profession”. He or she benefits no one but his or her own sense of accomplishment and the wallets of those who help make them famous. And there is nothing more idiotic than to think that who they are should not affect what they do. Because what they do, other than as described above, has no genuine, lasting effect on anyone, other than them and their group.
No matter who is the world’s best at something today, there is always the next game and it can all change. No matter who wins today, the people who paid to see the game will not have gained in any meaningful way, unless you think that the ability to brag about “your team” is somehow meaningful. If you do, I suspect that you also think going on the biggest, baddest roller-coaster at Disneyworld is “living”.
Pro athletes are marionettes on a stage, asking for our approval, because our approval will provide them with more wealth than they can ever imagine. Well, if they are the marionettes, and we are the audience, we get to decide who should be on the stage and who gets the applause. If we are fickle in our judgement of them, so be it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Although I’m no sports fanatic I understand why many people like sports. Its not sports that I’m condemning. It’s the acclaim and admiration that we assign to these people who play them, and the willingness on the part of some, especially those who make millions on the fans who support them, to suggest that they, the athletes, are in any way important, or should be allowed to continue playing after having committed an offense that many of the more thoughtful of us would consider to be immoral or illegal.