I’m very tempted to give up on watching/following sports, at least professional sports. I’ve already scaled back my viewing and I’m definitely not as passionate about sports as I once was. Suppose part of that can be attributed to growing older and more mature (hah!), but I don’t think so. Many sports teams’ most ardent fans are middle-age and older. My parents weren’t big sports fans while we were growing up (perhaps they were a little busy raising six kids), but they were big Giants, A’s and 49er fans in their later years.
No, I think my lessening interest is based on cynicism and realism. And it has nothing to do with how much money todays athletes make. I don’t begrudge these guys what they make, it’s what the market bears. Whenever someone tells me athletes are overpaid, I ask them if they feel the same way about Tom Cruise or John Travolta getting $30 million for one movie. I also point out that if athletes were paid less, the paying public would still be paying the same, the only difference would be that the filthy rich owners would get to keep more of the profits. That’s because they charge the paying public what the paying public is willing to pay. I actually believe most football players are underpaid. It’s a dangerous, violent sport that wreaks havoc on one’s body and many will pay a high price when the bill comes due in later years.
Now, where was I? Oh yeah, cynicism and realism. Wait, before getting to that, let’s talk about the hoax. You know, Manti Te’o and the ‘relationship’-that-wasn’t-a-real-relationship-and-then-turned-out-not-to-be-even-a-real-non-relationship. At first I figured Manti had to be in on it, but after reading more about him and the situation, today I would put my money on him being a victim, although I’m not sure of anything in this weird saga. Here’s my take: 1.Manti has never been class valedictorian, 2. Manti thinks mostly of 3 things, football, football, and football, 3. Manti leans toward the gullible. Evidence of this is that he’s a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormon Church), a religion founded by a religious ‘seer’ and convicted criminal who had the angel Moroni appear before him and lead him to some golden tablets, which he interpreted (they were in some ancient language, don’t ask me how he knew that language) and then conveniently disposed of at the behest of the angel. (For the record, I’ve met many Mormons and they are invariably very nice people. Given half a chance, I’ll mock most religions). We’ll see how this plays out, but as of today I mostly believe Manti.
All right, back to sports, cynicism, and realism. I just don’t know what professional athlete out there deserves my support (surely athletes everywhere are devastated). If I’m going to invest myself into cheering for someone, I’d like to believe they’re someone I can semi-trust, believe, and like, at least a little, on a personal level. They don’t have to be a saint(ain’t none of us are), but at least a mostly decent, mostly honest person who isn’t a cheater and has some compassion and empathy for their fellow human beings. It appears there are fewer and fewer of those folks around in the sports world, which is full of liars, cheats, selfishness, self-absorption, entitlement, and criminality.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Lance Armstrong. After more than ten years of denials stronger than Hercules, bullying witnesses, suing and threatening to sue anyone who claimed he was a cheater, self-righteous indignation that anyone could possibly believe he cheated, guess what? Actually, you don’t have to guess. Everyone now knows he’s admitted that yes, he did indeed do all the cheating he’d spent years vehemently denying. He apparently also treats most people like day-old dog-doo. What a creep.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, et al. Lumping these steroid cheats and liars together. Not only are they cheats and liars, but like Lance, most of them treat others like dog-doo, especially Bonds and Clemens. Bonds told a Congressional committee he thought his steroids were flaxseed oil. Clemens testified that it was his wife who took the steroids. Palmeiro jabbed his finger at a Congressional committee and said ”Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.” Guess what he tested positive for later that year?
Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens future Hall-of-Fame linebacker. Not only does he do a ridiculous and juvenile dance when introduced before a game, in 2000 he was implicated in a murder. Long story short: at a nightclub, Ray’s entourage gets into a drunken brawl with another group, two guys in other group stabbed in the heart, both die, Ray ends up getting probation for obstruction of justice for lying about the events, no one is convicted of the murders. Facing Mr. Lewis in the upcoming Super Bowl will be S.F. 49er Michael Crabtree, interviewed by S.F. police last week about an alleged sexual assault. To be fair to Mr. Crabtree, no charges have been filed and the accusation could be completely fabricated. For his and his teams sake, I hope that’s the case. If the accusation is true, I hope he gets the book thrown at him and spends Super Bowl Sunday in jail. Whatever happened, let’s hope the truth comes out.
Sergio Romo. The Giants World Series star was detained at McCarran Airport in Vegas after he became belligerent with a TSA officer. Sergio couldn’t provide the proper forms of identification to clear security and was detained after becoming “angry and aggressive” with the agent. He was cited for violating airport rules and released, was not allowed to fly and was escorted out of the airport. Minor compared to the others, but still.
Phil Mickelson. This is the one that stings the most and got me going off on this tangent. I always liked Phil. He was one of those guys you cheered for and thought, ‘he’s a good guy, I hope he wins’. Now, he didn’t get arrested, didn’t assault anyone, didn’t cheat, wasn’t even rude to anyone. His crime was showing that he’s just another self-absorbed, entitled, clueless, jackass athlete. California voters just approved Prop. 30, which raised the sales tax on everyone and income taxes on the wealthy. So Phil whined, “There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state and, you know, it doesn’t work for me right now. So I’m going to have to make some changes… I’ve got to make some decisions on what I’m going to do.” The implication being that he will join most of his fellow golfers in moving to Texas or Florida, states that have no state income tax. It begs the question, “If Phil’s not a stand-up guy, who in sports is?” And the partial answer is ‘maybe no one’, although data is still being collected.
Phil made about $60 mil in 2012 and is worth about $200 mil. So what he made in a week in 2012 is more than most people make in ten years (assuming they had a job). What he made in a month in 2012 is more than most people will earn in a lifetime. Plus, he gets most stuff, not only free, but often he gets paid for using it. In fact, he makes much more in endorsements than he does on the golf course. So Nike or Titleist or someone pays him to use their equipment so the poor shlubs working paycheck to paycheck will go out and purchase it. On top of all the $$ he makes he gets free equipment, clothes, cars, expensive watches, etc. He stays for free at exclusive hotels, dines for free at fancy restaurants. Phil lives in the exclusive enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, just north of San Diego. Yet he still whines. Go ahead and uproot your family to save a couple of bucks Phil. Move away from friends and family, I’m sure your young kids can make new friends, same with your wife. You own a jet so you guys can easily fly back to visit the cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Move to one of those flat, hot, humid states with no state income tax. They both have misogynistic, reactionary Governors, guys you probably have a lot in common with.
Phil’s whine reminds me of what basketball player and noted thug Latrell Sprewell said several years ago. He was 34 and in the last year of his contract, making $14.6 million/year and was asked if he would play out the season and test the free-agent market, ”Why would I want to help them win a title? They’re not doing anything for me (besides paying him $14.6 mil!!). I’m at risk. I have a lot of risk here. I got my family to feed.” He was on the downside of his career and was upset the team was ‘only’ offering $30 million to extend his contract for three years, calling it ”insulting.” Phil, you’re not in good company. Of course, Phil has apologized for his insensitive comments. I always laugh at those apologies, which almost always are written by the athletes lawyer/agent and are as sincere as Rush Limbaugh at a Weight Watchers meeting.
So, to wrap up this (probably nonsensical) squawk, here’s a summary of how I currently feel about rooting for anyone in the sports world: Unless I personally know them and like them, why should I root for anyone? Who are the honest, decent, believe-in-fair-play guys and who are the scoundrels? Who truly appreciates what they have and are thankful for their good fortune and who thinks they are a gift from the gods who are entitled to anything they desire and daily treat others like dog-doo? If half the 49er team believed Pres. Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim who wants to take away their freedoms and should be impeached, why would I ever root for them? If a great tennis player was a cheapskate who was rude, vulgar, and treated everyone with haughty disdain, why would I root for her?
At least for me, it’s not easy being a sports fan these days.
John Travolta; the noted Scientologist is paid tens of millions of dollars for making movies like this and no one bats an eye; a top running back in the NFL making $5 mil/year who’s constantly getting pounded by guys weighing 50-100 pounds more than he, and some folks are outraged. My suggestion to those folks: Google Earl Campbell.
Manti Te’o; was he in on the hoax? Maybe, but probably not. If you’re asking “How could he have been fooled?”, read up on the history of the religion he devoutly believes in.
Lance Armstrong, indicating how many times he won the Tour de’ France; that’s also the number of times he cheated to win the Tour de’ France, as well as the number of Tour de’ France titles he was stripped of for doping/cheating. By most accounts, the serial liar treats others like day-old dog-doo; it’s good to know there sometimes is justice in the world.
Ray Lewis; many adolescent boys have a poster of the future hall of famer hanging on their bedroom walls, but probably none include this photo.