Liars, Killers and Brauns, Oh My!

There has been a lot of negative news lately regarding professional athletes in the U.S. The Biogenesis scandal regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in Major League Baseball has re-sparked numerous debates over the validity of certain records, awards and potential future Hall of Fame eligibility. Free agent point guard Daniel Gibson was charged with battery for breaking a man’s jaw during an argument. And, of course, former1 New England Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez, was arrested and charged with murder.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, indeed.

There are many articles being written and opinions being voiced decrying some of these athletes and their poor judgment and lack of respect for the games they play. Others will speak about how we can, in good conscience, maintain our connections with professional sports and the athletes who play them. There are also other articles that are speaking more to the ways parents can explain negative actions’ by public figures to their children2. As a person who feels a fairly strong connection to multiple sports and teams, and who participates in conversations related to sports somewhat often, I was surprised that I have not had a stronger reaction to this recent string of negativity.

Perhaps it’s just not in me to get too worked up over things like this. Yes, I’m disappointed that a number of MLB players, including former Cubs home-run-hitting machine, Sammy Sosa, have clearly cheated their ways into the history books. Yes, I think that the actions Aaron Hernandez allegedly committed in murdering Odin Lloyd are deplorable. But it just doesn’t seem to be in me to scream from the rooftops or to find a soapbox and start preaching.

I’m still going to follow my teams, win or lose. I’m still going to find myself getting attached to players for no good reason. I’m still going to play fantasy games, even if that means having to cheer for the success of a hated rival.3 Every sport is going to continue making billions of dollars in revenue every year because no matter how much negative press comes about, there are always fans who can’t stay away. Life goes on.

But that’s exactly what concerns me. I am uncomfortable by how simple it is for me to accept these situations as normal. When did this get so easy?

I suppose I already know the answer. Humans are creatures of habit, and I’m certainly no exception. When the same thing keeps happening, I begin to expect it. It doesn’t surprise me that my commute is going to be crowded every morning on my way to work; or that I’m going to have to pay bills every month; or that my family is going to be waiting for me when I get home in the evening. Similarly, it doesn’t surprise me when I hear that another professional athlete has done something stupid. All of those examples happen regularly enough that they no longer seem out of the ordinary to me.

Before I leave you with too much negativity, though, think about this: sports are still amazing. Sports give us the opportunity to bear witness to unbelievable acts of athleticism. They bring families, communities and complete strangers together.4 They distract us from real life and, in some cases, help us accept and move on from real life.5 As long as I focus more on the benefits of sports and the more positive actions taken by the majority of sports figures, I can still feel comfortable continuing my fandom. The joy I derive from watching professional sports – and, more importantly, from sharing them with my son – may be slightly dimmed by the actions of a few people, but it will still be shining brightly.

[1] Former because he was released almost immediately after the team became aware of his alleged involvement in the situation.

[2] At least one of these can be found here

[3] Which, incidentally, is exactly the reason why one of my brothers refuses to play fantasy sports.

[4] See Lessons #1 and #2 for an example of how sports reinforce familial relationships.

[5] Check out these photos from sports in the days after 9/11.

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