Just Give Me The Scores, Please
Voyeurism’s part of our culture. Like it or not (not!), we all belong to Tabloid Nation. For every peeping Tom and those of every conceivable preference and fetish, it’s a great time to be alive. Fine. Live and let live.
But I like my sports pure. I don’t want to read stories about professional athletes’ wives and/or girlfriends. I don’t care who’s stepping out. I don’t care who was at a strip club.
I’m interested in what happens on the field, and what I love is that the NFL is as purely meritocratic as anything in this world.
What I particularly dislike is when sportswriters and columnists indulge themselves in moralizing.
Look, I’ve worked in journalism long enough to know that we have this great inner penchant to pontificate. You scratch a journalist, and a moralist is bound to emerge. We love feel-good stories about athletes overcoming (insert particulars here) to succeed. We love to channel our inner Oprah and find brightness in dark stories.
But if you’ve been a journalist, you should know not to leap to conclusions and to be skeptical about something that doesn’t quite sound right. It’s a lesson that’s often forgotten in the great rush to be first with the story.
The real lesson of Manti T’eo’s “fake dead girlfriend” did not focus on any “character issues.” It had to do with the media’s credulity in a story that made us all feel so good. Yeah, it did. Like many fictional stories.
P.T. Barnum said a sucker’s born every minute. That’s for sure. He should see America now.
When the truth about the supposed “fake dead girlfriend” came out, it was not from a traditional media outlet but from the website Deadspin. That whole story should’ve raised red flags from the beginning.
The media also love to talk about troubled athletes, and are often urging them to “get help” to “get their lives straightened out.”
That sounds like good advice. There are plenty of situations that should encourage people to do some soul-searching. But that’s their business.
That brings me to cautionary tale number two. It centers on a certain player named Adrian Peterson.
Does anyone remember his arrest a while back? He was arrested for assaulting a police officer, which is quite serious. He protested his innocence, and I’m sure many thought something like, “Hahaha, another big-shot athlete gets humbled.”
Except what happened in that case was that Peterson was arrested on a bogus charge, which was later dropped. It wasn’t clear exactly what happened, except that AP didn’t do anything wrong. He might well have been the victim of an assault by an off-duty cop.
You have to hear both sides of the story. That seems to get lost in the shuffle.
Finally, I have one more rant to get off my chest. That’s the use of the term “role model” when it comes to professional athletes.
I applaud men who are skilled enough to play professional sports. They’re the cream of the crop. They have to prove themselves every game and play, and when they lose their edge, they’re history. They have to bring their A game. An injury could end their career at any moment.
Yet I’m not sure that a guy who can read at the eighth-grade level should be a role model. Many athletes are intelligent, sure, but many professional football and basketball players didn’t even come close to graduating from college. In any case, athletes' grades and graduation have nothing to do with NFL success. If there’s a message, it seems to be that you don’t even to be educated to succeed.
The NFL should be about two strange entities, winning and losing. The margin between the two can be one bad play, one great catch, a funny bounce, a bad call, an injury, a gutsy run, a perfect call. Pro football doesn’t need to be hyped.