The Culture of Sports: What the hell is happening?

What is happening in the sports world these days?  Both with players and fans? Amateur and professional sports alike. This is a question that could have been asked at any point in the recent past.  When players who were charged with murder were allowed to continue playing their chosen sport.  When an accused rapist was suspended a few games and the fan base called foul.  Questioned the integrity and character of his female accuser.  When players had a bad game and wound up with their homes vandalized.  When an entire university came under fire for covering up the most horrible and unspeakable act of all—child molestation. 

The teams we cheer for are not simply playing a game.  They are in a business.  Obviously in business, money is the thing.  If an accused murderer (such as Ray Lewis) or an accused rapist  (such as Ben Roethlisberger) can help you win, he can help you make more money.  So you keep him on the team instead of releasing him. 

What’s with these athletes? They believe they are above reproach, to be sure.  Take the recent case of Colorado Avalanche goalie Seymon Varmalov.  Accused of drunkenly beating up his girlfriend and laughing as he did it.  She claims it’s happened before, but never in the U.S. and that police in other countries turned a blind eye to it.  He believed he could get away with it. That happened on Tuesday.  He started in goal on Friday. 

How about the situation with Miami Dolphins?  Offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the team to work out emotional issues related to bullying by teammate Richie Incognito.  Today Martin formally alleged player misconduct against the Dolphins.  He reportedly had not done so earlier because he feared retribution from Incognito.  The Dolphins announced that they have suspended Incognito.

What about the Philadelphia Flyers?  They were losing so bad on Friday night, that a line brawl ensued.  Then their backup goaltender, Ray Emery, skated the length of the ice to challenge opposing goalie Braden Holtby to a fight.  Holtby told Emery he didn’t want to fight.  Emery told Holtby to protect himself, proceeded to knock off his helmet, and land multiple punches to the back of Holtby’s head.  That is flat out assault.  In the real world, Emery would be arrested.  Since the NHL doesn’t live in the real world, Emery will not be punished.  The man committed ASSAULT because his team was losing a game. 

            Are these the players we want children to look up to?  Like it or not, athletes still remain role models for children in this country.  It used to seem like the good guys outweighed the bad guys.  Now it’s starting to seem like the bad guys outweigh the good guys.

            We as fans are also getting worse.   With the advent of social media, the opinions of fans reach a wider audience.  It also gives fans a way to directly reach athletes.  There are certainly complimentary things said.  Then there are fans telling an athlete that he should kill himself for fumbling or giving up a goal or giving up a homerun.

Fans also have an answer for everything when it affects their favorite team.  Quarterback accused of rape?  Well, he was never charged.   His accuser was drunk and probably a slut.  Someone have a bad game?  Go throw stuff on their lawn.  Threaten them on Twitter.  A hockey player beats up his girlfriend? That could affect the outcome of fantasy hockey! A pro football player left his team for emotional reasons?  What a wuss.  He needs to be more of a MAN.  Goalie assaults someone during a game?  He’s a leader and hero. The truly sad thing is, these are just a handful of examples.  There are hundreds of others.

            I have been a sports fan for as long as I can remember.  I cannot even recall a day where I didn’t watch sports or read about sports or listen to sport analysis.  But between the actions of athletes and fans alike, I’m starting to question my love for these sports and the athletes donning the jerseys.  The culture of sports has changed, and not for the better. 

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