Athletes: Heroes or False Idols

Professional athletes have become more than just “athletes”, especially the superstars. They’re looked at as “gods” for many because of their talent, wealth, and stature in society. Lebron James, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods and Tom Brady are just a few examples of the athletes that are common knowledge for any sports buff. Many (especially adolescent’s) see them as idols, wanting desperately to look and act like them both on and off the court/field.

Have we societally put too much pressure on athletes to be role models; or does it come with the territory? Is it fair to expect complete strangers (minus the national fame and attention) to live up to “our” moral expectations just because they live in the public eye?   These are questions that I think need to be asked, although the answer might differ depending on who’s answering.

For perspective, I grew up idolizing Jeter; I loved what he represented both on and off the field. He was the epitome of class and sportsmanship throughout his career and he made it extremely difficult not to like him (even for Red Sox fans). You could say that my ideology towards athletes has been skewed because I like/dislike an athlete more for their character than their performance on the field. I don’t have a problem with someone making mistakes, I root against athletes who have severe character flaws (Floyd Mayweather, Alex Rodriguez, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson etc.).

My best friend on the other hand, is more concerned about an athlete’s performance than his lifestyle choices (check out his blog dontquityourdayjob.sportsblog.com). He grew up idolizing Michael Jordan, who is one the greatest competitors (and sports figures) of all time, but not exactly one of the best men to ever walk this earth. Now, in no way am I saying that my friend isn’t a good person because he idolized Jordan; I’m saying that by idolizing Jordan his perspective towards athletes is different than mine.

While I might judge/root for an athlete based on his/her character, that doesn’t mean I’m right or am trying to start a trend. Performance is every bit as important to me (I don’t cheer on scrubs) as someone’s character; however an athlete [that I once rooted against] can sway my opinion of them if they show class/sportsmanship on and off the field (hello Tom Brady). I realize that my ideology might seem a little strange and not the “norm”, but that’s what makes sports so great; everyone has their own reasoning for rooting the way they do.

In closing, athletes shouldn’t be held to an unrealistic standard and expected to act perfect all day, every day. Yes, they’re living in the public eye and many will never have to worry where their next meal’s coming from, but that doesn’t mean they should be vilified for making mistakes. I believe that athletes should be mindful of the role they play in the lives of fans however they shouldn’t be expected to be someone’s idol. That job is the responsibility of the parent(s) to live up to, not someone who can be found daily in a 30 second SportsCenter highlight.

Peterson Shouldn’t Be Reinstated

The NFL reinstated Adrian Peterson on Thursday after he was indicted in September on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. He was placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list and only played in one game for the Minnesota Vikings last season. It’s now up in the air as to whether or not the Vikings will keep Peterson or release him; which has become the new “headline story” by the media. Once again, the media has missed the mark completely and is going after the wrong aspect of this story.

Last season was a rough one for the NFL and its image. The “shield” looked extremely tarnished after it completely botched the investigation (and punishment) of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.  The Peterson allegations just made matters worse for the NFL, who’s always tried to uphold a virtuous image amongst its professional sports contemporaries.

Peterson’s abuse of his child and lack of remorse have been truly disturbing; but why the NFL has chosen to reinstate him is even more unsettling.

Believe what you will, but there is no excuse or reasoning to physically (or mentally) abuse a child. Now, before I go any further, there’s a monumental difference between abusing and disciplining a child. Everyone’s belief system is different; I for one have no problem with spanking a child if they severely misbehave. Spanking (done correctly) will not leave a bruise, welt or mark on the child, excluding the temporary red mark that will last for all of a few minutes. Using objects like a belt or a stick (switch) are unnecessary and that’s where the line between discipline and abuse begin to blur.

What isn’t blurred is the fact that Peterson’s so called “discipline”, left his child with severe bruises and lacerations on his (son’s) back, buttocks, genitals, ankles, and legs (ESPN.com). To make matters worse, Peterson’s son was only 4 years old at the time of the incident.

I don’t care what part of the country you’re from or how you were raised, that’s the definition of physical abuse. There’s a point where people can no longer act naïve or dismissive towards acts of abuse, especially towards children. We’ve adapted as a society so ignorance is no longer a plausible excuse in this matter. While it’s understood that different parts of the country look at discipline differently, there’s still no excuse or reason to leave welts/bruises or lacerations on your child; especially one that is only 4 years old.

I’m still unclear as to the pressure the NFL was under by the players association to reinstate Peterson. If their hands were tied and didn’t have much of a choice, then that’s the way it is. However, if the players association had little say in the matter and the NFL made this decision on their own, then they should be ashamed of themselves.

My hope (although this scenario is extremely unlikely) is that most NFL teams will refuse to sign Peterson because of his deplorable actions. That the teams treat Peterson in the same “pariah-like mentality” that they’ve treated Ray Rice following his incident of domestic violence. Neither individual deserves to play in the NFL; they’re abusers, attackers, and just horrific human beings. Why any team would want someone with that little character or integrity on their roster is beyond me; but then again, sports teams have never valued who someone is, rather what they can do and how they (the team) can profit from it.

In The Pantheon of College Basketball Coaches: Auriemma is King

The Men’s and Women’s College Basketball season officially ended Tuesday night when the UConn women defeated Notre Dame to capture their third straight national championship. Duke held off Wisconsin the night before to capture their second title in five years. Arguably the two biggest schools coached by the two greatest coaches in their given sport, won the title this year and yet one coach’s accomplishments are being overlooked by the other; and it’s unclear as to why.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) won his fifth title Monday night, putting him in elite company. The only coach to have more national titles in Men’s College Basketball is the great John Wooden (who won 10 titles in 12 years). Krzyzewski is without a doubt the most accomplished coach of this generation. During his 40 years of coaching (first five years were at Army) he’s won 5 titles (all at Duke), been to 12 Final Four’s and has won 1,018 games. He’s also coached the U.S. Men’s Olympic team to two straight gold medals. With the exception of Wooden, there’s not coach in the history of Men’s College Basketball whose accolades come close to Krzyzewski’s.      

With all that being said, his accomplishments are nowhere near as impressive as the coach who just won his third straight National Championship and tenth overall.

On Tuesday night, Geno Auriemma cemented his legacy as the greatest women’s basketball coach of all-time; and is well on his way to becoming the greatest men’s and women’s college basketball coach ever. His accomplishments are too many to list, so we’ll stick to the basics. He’s won 10 titles (and is 10-0 in title games), been to 15 Final Four’s, won 918 games and coached the Women’s Olympic Basketball team to 2 gold medals. There isn’t another current or active coach that matches Auriemma’s resume. Coach K is a close second with his five national titles but he’s 5-4 in title games while Auriemma is still perfect.

If you’re still not convinced of Auriemma’s brilliance here’s a stat that should put you over the top. Since 1995 (the year that the UConn Women won their first title) Auriemma has coached the UConn Women to 10 titles. No other teams in college and/or professional sports have won more than 5.

Let’s let that skink in for a moment.

In a twenty year span, they’ve doubled the amount of championships of any professional/college team. That’s unbelievable. There’s never been a coach in the history of college basketball (or pro for that matter, but that’s a whole other topic) who has been this dominant for this long. Yes, what John Wooden did was incredible, but he also did it in a diluted era of college ball. It only took a couple games to make it to the title game, whereas now, a team has to win six before they can be crowned champions. Not to mention the level of competition is a hell of a lot more competitive now, then it was back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

In my opinion, Auriemma is the greatest college basketball coach of all-time. He’s single handedly revolutionized a sport that has never received the “mainstream” coverage that it deserved. Women’s (College & Pro) basketball’s popularity is a result of his success; after all, half of the WNBA is made up of his former players. The man is a perfect 10-0 in title games, not to mention his 5 undefeated seasons along with a NCAA record of 90 consecutive wins. How anyone can argue against his run of excellence is beyond me.

Even if you don’t believe he’s the best of all time, you can’t deny his place on the Mount Rushmore of college basketball coaches for both men and women. His run of excellence and domination in a sport is something that may never be seen again; so please take off those rose colored/gender biased goggles a give the man his due.

 

***The “You” I was referring to throughout this post was for the mainstream media and those sexist sports fans that are unwilling to give Auriemma his due because he’s not a Men’s basketball coach.

The NBA: Sport or Entertainment

Growing up I had some friends who were into the WWF (now the WWE); I never liked it. I had a difficult time wrapping my head around a “sport” that was dramatized/scripted. It was even tougher for me to hear my friends and others refer to the WWE as sport. The definition of sport according to Webster is, “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature” (Webster Dictionary). The minute you script something in a sport you’re impeding on the integrity of that particular game/event. At that point it’s no longer a sport, just another form of entertainment.

There’s one professional sport in particular that seems to be (or already has) veering towards that method of entertainment, the NBA.

The NBA was in the midst of a scandal almost a decade ago when disgraced referee Brain Donaghy was arrested and later charged with participating in a gambling scandal. Donaghy became the whistle blower who informed the public that the NBA had fixed games in the past in order to boost ratings; he referenced Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings as an example. Donaghy alleged that

Donaghy is a disgrace for gambling on the games, but that doesn’t make his allegations any less legitimate. It’s been known (or at least basketball fans are aware) that referee’s give “superstar” calls to some players and not others. Just with that information alone, how can the NBA legitimize their game? Game officials are supposed to be objective not subjective. If officials are giving certain players an advantage over others, that’s going to give the players or the team(s) that don’t have a superstar a huge disadvantage.

If you watch the NBA you know exactly what I’m talking about. Stars like Lebron James and James Harden (to name a few) are going to get calls that Tyler Zeller (Celtics) and Langston Galloway (Knicks) won’t. That’s ridiculous. Like it or not, fouls change the outcomes of games; which again brings me to my point of how the NBA loses credibility (at least in my eyes) with the public knowledge that their officials are subjective when making calls. It also lends itself to the possibility that the refs are instructed who to foul and when in order to make the game(s) more entertaining.

Just for a quick example. When Lebron went to the Heat, most people in (and outside) the league hated him for doing it. The Indiana Pacers quickly became the team that wanted to knock them off their pedestal more than any other. During the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons, their paths always crossed in the playoffs; which made for great theater. Interestingly enough, the Heat won every one of those matchups even though in their first series, Indiana seemed to have all the momentum on their side. What happened? The officials happened. Game 4 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals was a must-win game for the Heat; if they lost they’d be down 3 games to 1 with very little chance to win the series. The Pacers came out guns blazing and then all of sudden the Heat started getting every call. The Heat ended up winning that series and eventually the title.

I watched that series very closely and the Pacers had the Heats number; everyone could see it. The Heat not making it to the Finals was not an outcome the NBA wanted. They knew they would get higher viewership if the Heat instead of the Pacers. I’m not saying the officials were the only reason why Miami ended up winning the series and ultimately the title that year, but they were definitely a factor.  

I realize that there isn’t a shred of proof to back up my claims but I really believe that I’m on to something; and I know that I’m not the first person to believe that the NBA is scripted.

If you’re a diehard fan of the NBA then the previous paragraphs probably mean nothing to you because you’ll defend the league to death. You’ll write me off as a cynic or a conspiracy theorist that’s just trying to make waves. However, just take a moment and think back over the last few years and how the NBA playoffs turned out. More times than not the best possible matchups took place and many of those “premier matchups” went 6-7 games. It’s not completely out of the realm of possibilities to think that the NBA has an agenda and uses its officials to help implement said agenda.  Money talk, and if certain teams are going to help the NBA make more money, who’s to say that they’re not going to try and push those teams in a certain direction to increase their revenue?

There have been whispers for some time that NBA could be fixed however the story always seems to die out just as quickly as it was created. The rumors and whispers might be unsubstantiated claims, but given the fact that they do exist, shouldn’t there be more investigating and less mudslinging towards those who are seeking the truth?