I love sports. Trust me, they are the light of my life. Some of my most cherished memories involve sports, both as a fan and as an “athlete.” I am currently the assistant sports editor here at The Triangle, and I am set to graduate with a degree in sport management next March. Sports do “transcend,” as Micah Watanabe mentioned in his article in last week’s op-ed section, but it is important to realize that they are not perfect.
Sports might seem larger than life, but they are not. Life itself is complex, but sports are relatively simple. Athletes play games that result in wins and losses. This can bring people together or tear them apart. Fights between rivals in the parking lot balance the scale of high fives between pals at the bar.
Whether friend or foe, there have been, and will always be, moments in sports that anyone can appreciate. Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier showed that the nation’s pastime could finally be integrated. Michael Oher making it to the NFL showed that anyone can succeed in sports, no matter what background he or she comes from.
Yeah, sports sure do have some great stories to fall back on, and some even better moments. The 1980 Miracle on Ice and the David Tyree catch in Super Bowl XLII, among many others, are unforgettable. However, these special occasions in sports are the exception, not the norm, and sometimes we lose sight of that fact. For every comeback win there are countless wire-to-wire victories, and that is just fine.
Not every athlete is special, either. People have good qualities and bad. People do the extraordinary and underwhelm. Athletes are the same way because athletes are people. We should not glorify the athlete, just as we should not glorify the person who makes a meatball sandwich at Subway. Too often we put an athlete on a pedestal only to realize that he or she is not perfect in every way.
Athletes are made into gods, just to be broken down when they do not live up to those unrealistic expectations. Roy Halladay does not owe you an apology for being injured while playing a game that you casually watch while eating nachos on your couch. Ryan Howard does not deserve to get booed because he is not “living up to” a $125 million contract.
Philadelphia fans are a prime example of this, but we are all guilty in one way or another. Morality does not spawn from talent; good players are not always good people. Tiger Woods can be the greatest golfer of all time and still be the worst husband. Floyd Mayweather can be the greatest boxer of his generation and still be the biggest stooge. Really, it is OK.
A defendant is innocent until proven guilty in the court of law, but an athlete is wonderful until proven inadequate. Should it not be the other way around? It is that way in basically every other part of life, but why not sports? Is it the stage? Is it the money? Is it the media influence? I do not know.
However you care to evaluate it, the ultimate conclusion is that our view of sports is skewed. We do not allow great things to happen in sports; we make them happen through predetermined storylines and heightened expectations. If they are to “transcend,” we must make sure they actually deserve to do so. Sports should be celebrated for what they are, not for what we want them to be.
Bryan Fyalkowski is the assistant sports editor at The Triangle. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.