Dec 30, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Lazy thing for a writer to do at the end of the year – list all the big events that happened, offer some pithy commentary, then proceed to 2012, hands washed of the dirt of 2011.
More instructive, though, would be to take what happened and gleam some sort of lesson from it, and that’s what we’ll do here.
Everywhere on the sports landscape in the past 12 months, there was something scandalous to break, some sin to get outraged about, something to attach that utterly stupid ‘Gate’ tag to for no reason whatsoever (there, another thing to be mad at Nixon for), and it never let up.
Each time, the pattern was virtually the same. A bad thing happened, and it got replayed and recycled thousands of times. Eventually, the hue and cry went out – somebody had to get fined, suspended, fired, jailed, or some variation of all four. Eventually, the furor subsides, only to be replaced by another furor, rinse and repeat.
From large-scale horrors like the Jerry Sandusky case to the NFL and NBA lockouts to smaller bits of trivia (I mean, people got mad over a handshake at the end of the 49ers-Lions game), it got downright depressing to see the endless rounds of incriminations.
It’s as if sports have inherited all the poisonous aspects of politics, with more desire to stir up trouble than to, you know, solve anything. And it even crashed into Central New York with the Bernie Fine saga, still unresolved, though many are just sick and tired and want to move on.
Maybe there is a solution, a healthier perspective, to be found. It’s all based on the simple, yet unspoken, notion that people are (gasp!) humans, they (horrors!) mess up, and the sooner we recognize this, the better chance we have to work toward resolutions.
We have said often that sports, while not more important than other aspects of life, does reflect society, both its assets and liabilities. If that’s the case, then why this desire to find perfect role models in athletes, and why must we act so joyful to tear them down when they do make mistakes?
There were reasons for people to get mad at Tiger Woods for his extramarital transgressions, or at LeBron James for being less than tactful when he took his talents away from Cleveland. For some, though, when they didn’t win (or, in Tiger’s case, got hurt), it was reason to celebrate, to claim that some sort of karma was at work, evening the virtual score.
That morphs into the “just because” attitude. Put simply, it states that, if something bad happened close to someone famous, then that someone famous must be held accountable, even if they did nothing wrong. That explains the calls by some to axe Jim Boeheim, whatever the truth about Bernie Fine’s activities with children.
There’s a very thin line between fair criticism and self-righteous blather. Part of it, for sure, is covering your back, because you never, ever want to be on the wrong side of an issue. Yet another part is assuming a moral superiority that no one gave to you.
Here is where irony can really strike. For years on that “Sports Reporters” program on ESPN, Bill Conlin, a sportswriter based in Philadelphia, railed against whatever outrage suited him, sometimes getting awfully preachy.
Now, seven different people have accused Conlin of sexual assault, only five months after he received the Taylor Spink Award during the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies at Cooperstown. Granted, the cases are decades old, but this hasn’t evoked the same sort of blaring headlines and endless reams of commentary (except in Philly) that the Sandusky and Fine cases did.
Yes, Conlin got that Spink honor from that same Baseball Writers Association of America that, once every 12 months, gets to decide go into the Hall of Fame. We’ve all seen how they have, and will, rail and gnash teeth about the PED era and make sure that no one associated with it ever gets close to the required 75 percent of votes.
Heck, they gave Jeff Bagwell just 41.7 percent the first time around, all on the assumption that he did some kind of steroids. No positive test, no admission, no proof, just assumptions that might be completely false. Again, no one wants to be on the wrong side, so they just go for the clean side, even if nothing is dirty. Huh?
Here’s an idea, media and fans alike. The next time in 2012 (and it may be about Jan. 7 or so), when you hear about some alleged misdeed by a sports figure, take a deep breath and realize that it won’t be the first, and it won’t be the last, so it’s more healthy to just put your faith in something dependable – if that even exists.