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Cheer for the Game

Column: Avoid Idolizing the Player

We have not completely crumbled as a society – yet. Sports, however, is standing on wobbly knees.

The sporting world is its own little society. So many ideas and modes of thinking can be applied from one sport to another. The sports world is not limited to just competition, but also the front office, fan bases, revenue streams, and sadly, the courtroom.

In the past two weeks, we’ve seen some of the lowest of the low in the world of sports: an Olympic hero showing incredible stupidity and one of the all-time greatest legends being exposed for his use of illegal performance enhancers. It’s a disappointing time to be a sports fan, right?

Wrong. It’s only disappointing because we as a society allow it to be. We fans are nothing but naïve sycophants.

We put athletes on pedestals and worship the ground they walk on. We memorize their hometowns, career batting average, where they played college ball and their mother’s maiden name. We beg them for their used equipment as they walk down the tunnel before and after games, and buy jerseys with their names on the back. We name pets and even children after them.

The hypocrisy takes a more pronounced turn when we demand the most of our athletes. We want them faster, stronger, more agile. We demand perfection. Athletes with flaws are to be hidden, unseen, relegated to suburban gyms and fields where their once promising talent goes to die.

So when Alex Rodriguez, the best player in all of baseball is revealed to have used steroids, it’s almost comical how fast the morality police get up in arms.

Baseball is just one small example of where we’ve gone wrong. People act so outraged at those who use steroids, but can you blame them?

What do you see on Sportscenter? Home runs. Bombs. Dingers. They don’t show walks, opposite field base hits, or well-placed bunt singles.

We fell in love with the long ball, a small part of the game, and placed it above all other aspects of the sport. Very similar to how we’ve fallen in love with players for all the wrong reasons.

We forget that athletes are people like you or me. They share the same fears and struggles that we all do at our core. A-Rod, for all his talent, has (some pretty hefty) flaws.

Put your thoughts aside on whether or not smoking marijuana is a big deal. Michael Phelps, for all of his superhuman talent, is flawed with the decision-making ability of your average 23-year-old American.

When parents expressed such disappointment in him for letting their children down, it did nothing but showcase their own ignorance. We cheered on an athlete all summer who long before Beijing had earned himself a DUI.

And now, with so little to gain from smoking pot and everything to lose, he cost himself sponsorship money as well as his reputation with a large number of Americans. While it may just be strike two against him in the eyes of society, it’s a continued trend that shows once again he’s just an idiot who can swim better than anyone on the planet.

The swimming is the only difference. There are plenty of other idiots out there that show a lack of judgment. You don’t have to go far to see it in action.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Tim Tebow, who is everything the previous three guys are not. Yet, we’re still guilty of doing the exact same thing in relation to him. We place him on this pedestal and paint him as a Messiah figure. We are collectively waiting as a nation for pictures of him fondling two naked co-eds at a frat party to surface, so we can have the sick enjoyment of tearing him down.

Here on our campus, our athletes are accessible. I see basketball players walking to class. I see a baseball player in my communications class first thing in the morning. Soccer players can be seen working on projects in a computer lab around midday. Athletes can be seen practicing on Arute Field on nice afternoons.

While I lamented a lack of fanaticism in this very paper earlier this year, perhaps a lack of student enthusiasm is a good thing. Maybe it keeps these athletes grounded, and that’s why we don’t have steroid controversies and multi-million dollar endorsements being lost here at CCSU.

In the rest of the world, we live in a hero worship complex at its worst. We build all these athletes up just to tear them down. Whether it be for their lack of talent, their age, off-field habits, or personality, we find ways to pick them off.

There are ways to change the tide of this epidemic. Pass on asking a player for their autograph next time. Ignore the supposed “sanctity” of records, which are nothing more than numbers. Instead of attaching our egos to a team, let’s respect the hard work, celebrate the talent, root for a win and leave it at that.

-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: