Sunday, December 11, 2011

American Idols

Last night a friend of mine posted a link on my facebook wall to a story that Milwaukee Brewer outfielder Ryan Braun had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Disbelief and alarm were my first reactions. Before I could register any other feelings, a Cub fan posted a rather snarky comment, reveling in the apparent dire straits facing Braun and the Brewers. I responded by calling the author of the remark a derogatory name along with an aggressive comment of my own. The back and forth continued briefly before I finally put a halt to the ignorance by simply deleting the initial post.

I spent the rest of the evening monitoring tweets on Twitter from national baseball scribes and reading online reports regarding the situation. It was remarkable the amount of attention being paid to this “breaking news”. Sometime after midnight, I went to bed, exhausted with the whole ordeal.

When I awoke this morning and turned on the radio I was greeted with a Chicago talk show giddy with the fact that the potential 50-game suspension of Braun because it was great news for the Cubs and their attempts to once again regains relevance.

The show’s young producer brought up the point that MLB had not yet announced a suspension and that there was an appeal in process. The host admitted that he hadn’t heard that. Seemingly, he was content to go with the sexier piece being put out there by that last bastion of integrity, ESPN.

Why let facts get in the way of a good story?

Having had enough of the one-sided journalism, I went up the dial to listen to a fantasy football show out of Chicago. Bad move. The first thing I heard were a few smarmy remarks about Braun by host Harry Teinowitz. Yes, he is the same Harry Teinowitz who was arrested in March for drunken driving and subsequently suspended by WMVP 1000, an ESPN station.

How does that saying go? People in glass houses…

After turning the radio off, it finally dawned on me what the problem is. It wasn’t athletes breaking rules or doing bad things. Nor was it the media sensationalizing every misstep a sports figure might make. No, none of these are the problem.

The problem is the American public. It’s you and me. We idolize these athletes and the teams they play on and then put them on pedestals. They become so important to us that our world revolves around them. It’s true when you think about it.

We schedule our lives so that we don’t miss “the game” and we spend embarrassing amounts of money on sports memorabilia. I do it and so does most of America. Let’s be honest with ourselves.

Then when one of our idols breaks a rule or steps afoul of the law, we are horrified and outraged. This is especially true if they happen to play on the team of a hated rival.

And when the media reports every minute detail of a celebrity athlete’s wrongdoing, they are doing it for one reason. We want to hear about it. They are only giving us what we desire. Every gory, gut-wrenching item. It’s what the American public wants.

With today’s technology and social media being so prevalent, this information is dispersed at a mind-boggling speed. Unfortunately, often times it is before the facts have been substantiated. But, once again, it’s what we want. Give us the dirt and give it to us quick.

I’m not about to preach to anyone. God knows that I am as guilty as anyone of all of this. I’m not casting any stones. Besides, I live in a glass house.

What I am going to do is make a concerted effort to put more of an emphasis on what is really important in life. God, family and friends are infinitely more important than any athlete. Even Prince Fielder.

We can all make better choices when it comes to choosing role models. Perhaps Charles Barkley put it best, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.

Until next time…from the booth. 


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Leplume said...

Great topic for a blog. I was watching the Giving Awards last night on NBC. Now, that made me also think about role models. Perhaps sports isn't the best place to look for role models. Last night I saw a young lady who was the first to go to college in her family and because of that she has inspired her own siblings, all of whom dropped out early and had babies, to go back to school and strive for a degree. That's a role model. Not just someone to admire for a particular skill - like playing a sport - but someone who actually makes us try to be better. I feel bad for Ryan Braun and I hope he can prove them wrong. Either way, his reputation will be forever tarnished. That's just a bad thing all the way round.