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In defense of the average athlete

Sports figures are people, too. Shocking, right? I bring this up because I am often angered at the way athletes are judged in today’s society. We learn to idolize and admire these almost mythical celebrities. They can do things that the average man only dreams of doing: hitting that game-winning shot in game seven of the NBA Finals, walking off to win the World Series or making that leaping grab in the end zone to win the Super Bowl. Nothing else compares to that one moment when an entire crowd surrenders to the grandeur of an epic sports moment. It’s the kind of stuff you remember forever, whether it is good or bad. I still remember what I was doing when Ron Artest went into the stands or when Michael Jordan crossed over Byron Russell and drilled a perfect pull-up jumper to beat Utah in 1998. And that’s the thing about sports, it achieves emotions that most things in life can’t. This is why I find it highly ironic to acknowl¬edge that when we judge sports, we must do it without emotion or bias. By this, I mean that athletes possess god-like status until they go astray from society’s moral standards.

Brett Favre is playing professional football at the age of 41. Forty-one! He took his team to the NFC Championship game last year, he has all the records and he loves and respects the game. But the second someone leaks information about Favre texting inappropriate messages to Jenn Sterger (a New York Jets em¬ployee and model), there are people who discuss how he has tar¬nished his legacy. You tarnish your legacy if you bet on baseball like Pete Rose did. You tarnish your legacy if you take steroids like Alex Rodriguez or Jose Canseco. That’s how athletes need to be judged. It is an embarrassment that an athlete would ha¬rass a woman trying to do her job, but Favre’s assessment as a person should not interfere with how he performs on the field. You can’t try to mix moral standards and athletic performance. Ideally, athletes who are admired and respected by so many indi¬viduals would be role models in our society. Nevertheless, we all know that is not the case. Yes, it would be wonderful if all of our athletes and celebrities were perfectly profound and well-rounded human beings. I wish they did community service every day and that they represented family and moral values. But if they don’t, then why is this related to sports at all? We are trying to evalu¬ate two distinct aspects of society. And the problem with that is instead of being objective and rational, we want to condemn the athletes that don’t fit our personal moral standard.

I’ve never been a fan of LeBron James. I understand James’ ego, his drama, his media circus and everything he did to the Cleveland community when he decided to go to Miami. But at the same time, he does have a right to choose where he wants to play. He wants to go to the beach, play with two amazing play¬ers and enjoy life. He never went to college. He never had that experience. Players aren’t slaves; they are human beings who are as self-interested and selfish just as we are. James had no logi¬cal reason to stay in Cleveland. So when I hear all these insults and criticisms of what he did, and how he did it, I think that he was just doing what was best for him. Athletes have to be judged without emotion.

Terrell Owens has more than 150 touchdowns in his career, when he retires the only wide receiver who will have better num¬bers than he does is Jerry Rice (and he’s probably the best receiver to ever play the game). So we can agree that Owens has been highly productive in an illustrious career. You would think he is a hall-of-famer. But analysts and league executives despise Owens for his show-boating, his need for attention and his lack of ma¬turity. Not that it matters that Owens has never had any trouble with the law, as several hall-of-famers and NFL players do, or that he is an absolute body fitness junkie and keeps in shape like no other, or that he has been a great football player. Am I miss¬ing something? Sports are supposed to be about sports and noth¬ing else, even if they trigger so many outside emotions, the way athletes perform has to be what determines their greatness. I’m not saying they should act however they want, I’m saying that no matter what they do, their performance is the only legitimate way to evaluate an athlete.

If you think what Tiger Woods did was wrong, that’s fine, but don’t be wishing him struggles on the course. Wish for him that he gets help and recovers stability in his life. If you want a role model then that’s what you should root for. Hope that Michael Vick continues to do what he is doing; he got a second chance and he’s taking advantage of it. So what if Ron Washington admit¬ted to doing cocaine? He confessed and now he took the Rang¬ers to the World Series. Sports figures are fragile human beings who make mistakes and who receive nothing else but criticism the moment they step off this mythical moral code. I’m not say¬ing we should condone wrongful behavior, I’m saying we should show the same compassion as we do for an average human being. We need to learn to separate sports and morals the same way we learned to separate church and state. The phrase “a good guy” is entirely different from “a good person.” No matter what happens, the integrity of the game remains in how athletes perform. De¬mand hustle, demand camaraderie and passion, demand great¬ness if you wish. But don’t demand moral perfection for that’s something that no one will ever achieve.

Zamarripa is a sophomore news/Internet major and can be contacted at eduardo.tamezzamarripa@drake.edu


1 Comment

  1. Cline December 6, 2010

    Good Show!!

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