Sportsmanship, Pro Athletes, and Richard Sherman (Guest Post)

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My closest friend wrote a rebuttal to yesterday's article...

I can trace my loss of innocence as a sports fan to a single point in time: the day I found out Ty Cobb was a complete asshole. As many young boys are in America are prone to be, I was obsessed with baseball. I couldn't get enough stats, information, or anecdotes to fill my brain. When I first caught a glimpse of Ty Cobb's numbers I was floored; the man set or broke as many records as there were in the book. Inevitably, in my quest for knowledge I found out, like I imagine many other naive young men did, that the man was a blatant racist, cheated whenever he could, and once took it upon himself to climb into the stands and beat a handicapped man senseless during a game. Quite a resume for the man they called "The Georgia Peach". In later years assumed that the nickname was given to him in gest, Cobb likened the sport of baseball to "war" and played the game accordingly. They don't publish information like this on the back of baseball cards, some writers described Cobb as "gritty" or "edgy", a real "throwback". Truth is, he was a terrible person who happened to be a brilliant baseball player.

It was at that early age I first thought about the fundamental conundrum that any sports fan faces when their heroes are exposed as frauds, cheats, or just not good people: should it change the way feel about them as an athlete? There are countless examples of this throughout the history of professional sports in America: the king of trash talk Muhammed Ali proclaiming "I'm the greatest of all time" after brutally beating Sonny Liston into submission. Bill Romanowski spitting on J.J. Stokes in the middle of a game and later proclaiming he had to take steroids to "keep up with the blacks". More recently, and probably the most akin to Sherman's situation: boos rained down on Women's UFC Champion Rhonda Rousey for not shaking her opponent's hand after a brutal fight; fans instantly judged her while I thought: "maybe there are valid reasons for her actions."

Whether or not these actions happen in the field of play, or in a post game interview, or in a shady hotel room, they cast a negative light on these human beings, public figures, who have dedicated their lives to playing sports for a living. One can make the argument that we can "expect more" from professional athletes, that they should be held to a higher standard. I disagree, they are people- just like you and me. We may feel like they're different, that they should "act better" for the sake of the kids that look up to them, that they should be held to a higher standard, why? To make us feel better about cheering for them? To paraphrase Sir Charles Barkley: they are not role models. Some people are not gracious. Some people don't act professionally at work. We all try to hold ourselves to high standards, but we slip, even in professional situations: talking bad about a fellow coworker, lying about being late to a meeting, gossiping about a friend behind her back. We're all guilty of this, why should we expect more from professional athletes than we do of ourselves?

This brings us to Mr. Sherman. I can't say much on either side of the argument that hasn't already been said, but I can offer my personal opinion. I have no problem with his words or actions. Were they bitter? Yes. Were they not gentlemanly? Yes. Was he going a bit nutso on Erin Andrews? Yes. Not in any way offensive, his rant was delivered with the prowess of a classic WWF wrestler: unapologetic, harsh, and straight into the camera. Before you start thinking that the previous sentence is not a valid analogy, let me clear something up: all professional sports are rooted in entertainment. I would rather see raw emotion from an athlete, his real personality, than the normal watered down self-censored company lines that are delivered time after time, game after game, year after year. That interview was given by a man who wasn't thinking about his next shoe contract or how he's going to be "perceived" by the public. It was given by a man caught up in the emotion of reaching a lifelong dream, and poor Michael Crabtree just happened to be on the top his mind. That's acting like a human being, and like it or not, that's worth watching.

You can hear more from shftleft on his twitter page.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article Pat! I couldn't agree more. This whole media and twitter frenzy is idiotic and I don't have any problem with what he did.