For the second year in a row, the offseason story line following the Super Bowl isn’t focused on the winning team’s performance but rather the credibility, or lack there of, with another future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Which begs the question: Should we stop looking at athletes and sports franchises as our moral compass in society?
If your answer is no, then I now ask “Why do you think professional athletes and franchises owe you anything?”
You’ve likely heard about the 20-year-old story that surfaced over the weekend involving soon-to-be retired Peyton Manning in which he “mooned” a female member of the training staff during his time at the University of Tennessee. The case was settled, twice, and though social media wasn’t at the peak it is now, the story never gained any real traction outside of a handful of articles.
Though the Manning story was a simple Google search away, NY Daily News writer Shaun King brought it up in a piece comparing the favorable media coverage of Peyton Manning vs. the seemingly negative coverage Cam Newton has received post Super Bowl.
While the low hanging fruit for King was to compare the two Super Bowl QB’s, he made no mention that there are instances of questionable behavior by your favorite athlete and sports franchise in every sport.
NBA’s Kobe Bryant settled a rape case in Colorado and was just honored over the weekend at the All Star Game. MLB’s Barry Bonds has a job with the Miami Marlins as a hitting coach after the San Francisco Giants all but erased any mention of his homerun records during his time with the team and steroid-fueled milestones. Hope Solo drunkenly beat up her nephew and was still invited to meet the President post World Cup win.
There are countless others in virtually every sport. Cycling’s Lance Armstrong with doping and vicious lies. Michael Jordan with gambling and infidelity. Kentucky’s John Calipari with vacated wins at Memphis. The 1919 Black Sox throwing the World Series. NHL great Wayne Gretzy’s wife involved in a gambling ring. Tiger Woods. FIFA. The Olympics. Hell, even the Little League World Series. Get my point?
It goes on everywhere. It always has and will never stop.
In fact, only a few players who have played professionally for more than 10 years in our social media fake-outrage world have somewhat of a squeaky clean reputation with guys like Derek Jeter and LeBron James.
And don’t get me started on franchises who cheat to win. When there’s a website dedicated to tracking which teams cheat and how often, when do we stop pretending like we’re surprised?
At its core, sports franchises are run by highly competitive people who want to win. Winning means more success and likely, more money and fame. Therefore, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to athletes.
Competition and a winning at all costs mentality can bring out the worst in us. So we shouldn’t act surprised when athletes and franchises go above and beyond to reach the grand stage. I’m not condoning Manning’s behavior, or any other athlete mentioned and I have a deep sense of appreciation towards professionals who do things “the right way.” But in our ‘if you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying’ society,” once we start looking at athletes as humans with flaws who occasionally mess up, maybe then we can appreciate athletic ability separate from off the field transgressions.
Avoiding the noise around professional athletes in our capture-every-second-on-social-media world is easier said than done but sometimes, myself along with many others just want to enjoy an athletic performance without having to worry if a player cheated on wife or didn’t pay his taxes.
But if you’re someone who wants to put athletes and sports franchises up on a pedestal as role models, don’t be surprised when they let you down. Because if you’re looking for a moral compass, all you need to do is put down the pitch fork, grab a mirror and be the change you wish to see. And at the end of the day, that’s all you can control.