Posted on: January 30, 2010 11:00 am
All you hear about these days on TV, talk radio shows and in water cooler conversations is the behavior of superstar atheletes. Invariably each conversation or show includes a segment about "What are we supposed to say to our children", and " What are our children supposed to think about this?". Well, our children are supposed to be educated and guided by their parents, not their sports idols. Simply put, too often these young atheletes make poor decisions due to immaturity, too much money at a young age, and peer pressure.
I think the behavior of some of the atheletes is really poor, don't get me wrong. I think there needs to be stiffer and stiffer punishments for them, if for nothing else than to remove them from the limelight and deter this type of behavior from other atheletes. By the same token, I don't have an issue with letting my 2 young children know that there are people in the world that make poor decisions, that do things that are unacceptable in society. It is difficult to hold reverence for an athelete, or anyone for that matter, and then have your hero suddenly fall from grace. For that reason, we should watch atheletes perform in their sport, and then leave the upbringing of our kids, and the messages about right and wrong to their parents.
The amount of disdain and discredit for Tiger Woods is amazing. In this country especially, we love to make and break our heroes, then re-make them to take credit for being a forgiving society. Is Tiger Woods that different from alot of people you know, work with, have as neighbors? He cheated on his wife, and she left. Both had choices and they made them. That's all folks. As a matter of fact, he followed his upbringing, his father was known to have cheated and womanized. He curses, throws clubs, and generally gets angry on the course. Well, that pretty much follows along with most other golfers I know. What, because he is on the pro circuit, he should not be who he is? C'mon, let's be real. If you don't like it, tell you kid's that it is better to control your emotions, but that some have more difficulty doing that than others.
Gibert Arenas is another popular conversation topic these days. I hear alot of talk about how these atheletes often come from the roughest neighborhoods, and they had to fight for everything they have. Ok, so did a lot of kids that grow up to be law abiding professionals. Where you grew up, and how you grew up does not define you as an adult. This is the worst argument I ever heard in my life. You think because Gilbert grew up in a tough neighborhood that he needed to bring guns to the locker room to threaten a teammate? No, he brought them because he is spoiled and thinks he is above the law because of his status and money. His suspension cost $7m so far, much more than he lost in a supposed card game. He proved he is an idiot is all. Again, easy to tell my kids, hey, if you bring guns to work you will be either shot, or fired. The fact that he will continue to play in the league needs to be explained to kids that people still will pay someone if their particular skillset is in high demand, and very few in society can provide the skillset. It doesn't make it right, but it is life. That's the imperfect world that we live in.
All thoughout time, the superstar athelete has been revered. Look back at some of the biggest names in sports and you can figure it out. The problem is the parents, not the kids. You think it was easier for our past generation to explain John McEnroe and his outbursts than Tiger and his? How about Babe Ruth, or Mickey Mantle? How about Wilt Chamberlain? Namath? All known womanizers. Easier to explain? Probably not. Magic, Jordan anyone? Not at all perfect, but ceratinly celebrated! I think we all have to remember to celebrate sporting achievement rather than the athelete.
I have been and will continue to follow the career of Tiger Woods, because of his skill at the game of golf, not his skills as a person, husband or father. I love to watch history, and everytime he steps on a golf course he is carving out history. I am happy to be a spectator in that. That's why I was glued to a Bulls game, an Oilers game, etc. You wait for history. Am I disappointed? No more than I am when I hear about the same thing happening in my own community. I shrug, acknowledge that it happens, and move on with my life comfortable that everyone makes their own decisions and lives with their own consequences.
I have been both fortunate and unfortunate in who I root for in my past. My favorite atheletes of all time are Dan Marino, who was a fiery a competitor as there is. He didn't hide his emotions, and was sometimes criticized for it, but I think it is more accepted in football. My favorite baseball player was Dale Murphy. By all accounts he did it the right way and is generally regarded as an ambassador for the game. Hockey was Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier, and of course who didn't follow Gretzky. Basketball was Dominique Wilkins, no real issues either. But I also followed the careers of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire having lived in the Bay Area in the late 80's and 90's. I watched Mike Tyson with great enthusiasm.
Either way, consider yourself lucky if you are able to follow the career of an athelete who exhibits the class and character off of the field to match their performance on the field. There are'nt many Ripkens, Peyton Mannings, Phil Mickelsons, etc to follow. Mostly, you will find flaws, and indiscretions in your favorites. This doesn't make them a bad person, or even a bad influence necessarily. All it does is provide an opportunity to teach and mentor your children in the way you want them to act.
Posted on: January 16, 2010 12:48 pm
The game of baseball needs direction. Bud Selig has been maligned for most of his tenure as commissioner, and while he has done some good things for the game, he is often a lame duck or a puppet for the owners. In effect, Selig has been the commissioner since 1992, even though he was only officially given that title in 1998. Selig owned a team, the Brewers, before becoming the commish. There is no basis for his election, and he has not proven to be capable of leading baseball effectively.
Under Selig's leadership the game has become a richer business, but the biggest problems that face the game today are largely swept under the rug. With the game being as popular as ever, the players are signing bigger contracts, the owners are making more and more money, and the fans are being ignored. I don't think Selig understands the common fans perception. Sure, we love to watch because we love the game itself, but it is tougher and tougher to watch and follow the game. It is tougher and tougher to bring our sons and daughters to the games, due to both cost and integrity issues.
There are 2 major factors that are making the game more difficult to follow, and in turn pass along the enjoyment to our children.
The first factor is the steroids and drug testing. This issue has been around for the duration of Selig's tenure, and for his part in it all Selig's choice was to sweep everything he knew under the rug. Selig chose to protect the owners money, rather than protect the sanctity of the game. Witness what we have now, some of the most sacred of records in American sports are tainted and stained by drug abusers. These players probably didn't take the steroids to break records, that was simply a ancillary bonus for these guys on the road to making more money. I really don't think Bonds, Arod, McGwire or any others really thought to themselves, "Hey, if I take this stuff I could be the best player to ever play the game". I think more likely, they figured that if they took the stuff that they could put together a few great years, and hit the ultimate payday. Once it happened, the notoriety and adulation was addictive, so they couldn't stop. From there it was an epedemic, players trying to keep up with each other, and before you know it most of the players are trying something to get an edge.
The second issue is the broadening gap in the level of competition among the teams. I know Selig will say that there is a cap, with the luxury tax supposedly helping the lower revenue teams, but that is a convenient way of sweeping the issue under the rug again. Consider that 6 of the top 8 most valueable teams made the playoffs last year. The 2 that didn't were the Mets, who had the 2nd highest payroll, and the Cubs who had the 3rd highest payroll, so they sure tried.
Selig will point to isolated cases where lower income teams have made the playoffs(ie the 2008 Rays) as a means of proving that the current structure is working. In a very short period of time, teams can have young, homegrown talent come up and compete at a high level and have a short run at the playoffs, but compare that with the top revenue teams. These teams are loaded every year, consistenly competitive, and their fans are constantly engaged. The higher revenue teams will pay top dollar and take the top talent from the lower revenue teams and in a very short time, return that team to the bottom of the league for an extended period of time, where the top team stays on top. This type of activity ensures that the top 8 to 10 teams have a shot to win a championship every year, while the other 20 or so have no shot in most years.
Contrast that with the NFL where every team has as good a chance to make the playoffs as another. I am not saying that at the beginning of the season that every NFL fan thinks that their team will make the playoffs, but certainly the feeling is that the turnaround could be much quicker. The NFL has only 6 current teams that haven't made the playoffs in the last 5 years, with the longest current streak at 10 yrs(Detroit and Buffalo). MLB has 10, with 7 of those teams exceeding the longest current NFL streak, and the longest being a distant 28 years!!
The opposite argument states that the higher revenue owners are spending the money that they make, putting that money back into the team for the benefit of the fans. This is true, except for the fact that it is great for the fans of the top 8 teams, not for the game as a whole. Often this becomes a debate about the Yankees or Red Sox, and how they have the right to spend freely if they want. I agree, but I also think that the commissioner has an obligation to the fan base as a whole to put the most competitive product out there. Well run franchises will rise to the top, but then it will come down to people making franchises better, rather than the mighty dollar. The Yankees will always be able to spend more, they are worth $1.5 billion. They pull from a market that has 16 million people. I don't fault them that at all.
I fear that our younger generation will pay the price for the short sighted way the game is being run. No longer can you follow a player on your favorite team for years and years. These players are typically gone year to year. It is rarer and rarer to see a good player stick with a team for more than a few years. Secondly, you fear that your kids might actually follow and idolize a player today, when tomorrow it will be revealed that the player was using drugs, as baseball has failed to deter HGH users with blood testing to this day.
In Costas, you have an unbiased fan of the game. Costas shares many of the fans true love of the game of baseball, has the credibility with mostly everyone affiliated with the game, and seemingly would be able to make decisions in the best decision of the whole sport, not just one group. Costas possesses the skills to connect with the average fan of the sport, unlike Selig.