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.