Can We Stop Treating Pro Athletes Like They’re Gods Yet?
Michael Vick tortured and murdered dogs. Tiger Woods was an adulterous fiend. Joe Paterno let kids get sexually abused. The football team in Steubenville was a pack of lecherous, disgusting rapists. A woman named Lizzy Seeberg killed herself because she was raped at the hands of a Notre Dame football player — and now more Notre Dame nonsense with Manti Te’o. Famed cyclist and motivational icon Lance Armstrong admitted steroid use.
See a pattern here?
The genes that make a person good at sports (or at coaching sports) don’t make them immune to being inhumane monsters that destroy the lives of others and willingly deceive the entire world, although millions of Americans who spend countless hours braying at their TV sets would beg to differ.
American culture prizes athletic achievement above all else. How else could you explain Ray Lewis’ rise from alleged murderer to beloved gridiron veteran, or the fanatical devotion with which Penn State alumni defended Joe Paterno during the rape scandal?
Things are this way because sports have become religion to generations of Americans.
In Sundays of decades past, people met at a specific location at a specific time, wearing specific garb, eating specific foods, and chanting specific chants. The location was a church, the time was 1:00 p.m. mass, the garb was their “Sunday best,” the food was the bread and wine, and the chants were bible hymns and verses.
In modern-day America, the magic time on Sunday is still 1:00, but the location is a living room/sports bar, the garb is team jerseys, the foods are beef jerky and chips, and the chants are the various, too-often-heard team jingles — J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets” and the like.
How could athletes not have taken on sainthood in this context?
People devote an entire day of their week to watching these men, and that’s if a person only follows football and/or doesn’t waste hours in front of the TV on other days playing Madden or watching ESPN.
What’s more disgusting is seeing children who can barely walk clad in a player’s jersey. Why should someone tell their son to grow up and be a scientist or an engineer when he can be the modern American man’s patron saint: A starting quarterback in the NFL.
This behavior of fathers having their children obsessively watch sports evolves into the male variant of a “stage mom” (would the term be a “field dad”?): A father who pushes their kids into athletics no matter the cost, even if their kid has zero aptitude or desire to play sports. Do well and they’re rewarded with ice cream and love. Embarrass the family name and be shunned, cursed out, and humiliated, “When I was your age I could throw ten touch downs. Why can’t you play as well as that other kid? When I was your age I would’ve killed for a parent who made me play all the sports.”
This unhealthy value placed on athletics is exacerbated by television and movies. Rudy triumphantly runs around with pigskin and it becomes an acclaimed movie. Scientists who work tirelessly to save humanity from countless perils get mocked in schools or worse, ignored entirely. Einstein threw like a girl so who cares, right?
The denouement of this attitude has led us, inexorably, to the headlines and controversy we see before us. Colleges have to protect the athletes because they make the school money. They make the school money because people have learned to worship the ground athletes walk on since the day their uncultured parents threw a stuffed football their way and taught them to say “touchdown.”
It’d be wonderful to say that the examples of athletes being exposed as *gasp* fallible human beings rather than immortal gods is having an impact on society, but such a statement wouldn’t be true. In fact, college spending on athletics increased by a massive 61 percent between 2005 and 2010.
The tuition of “Regular” students shouldn’t have to subsidize athletic scholarships anymore, not when athletes unrepentantly rape women and our pro-sports society wants to ignore it. Athletes shouldn’t be people we look up to anymore. They shouldn’t have been the people we looked up to in the first place.
When you were growing up did you learn about the intricacies of the 4-3 defense or about Carl Sagan and The Cosmos? For most people, the answer to that question tells the whole story. They were taught from a young age to sanctify athletic figures. Their achievements made them heroes; legends in every sense of the word.
This is the baggage modern society inherited and with which it is currently encumbered. A college football player rapes a girl and people shrug, yet officials commit the same atrocity in India and it’s an outrage. A linebacker is involved in a murder in some capacity and millions rally to his defense, but when poor kids from the ghetto are involved in similar situations, these same people say to lock them up and throw away the key.
For the sake of our society and our culture, we have to stop venerating people who are good at playing and coaching sports. Lest, the best and brightest of our nation continuously go into sports law to bail out our “heroes” and sports medicine to help them reach chemically enhanced peaks of excellence.
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These discourses, these models of life, are insidious, egregious, and soul crushing.
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I could walk to Celebrate Brooklyn all summer along. I’d learn how to start running. I’d eat meals of happy chickens at the commune across the street.
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