Let me start by borrowing a phrase and saying that I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.
I get paid to pay attention to sports. I have a TV on my desk at work and am supposed to watch SportsCenter, live games etc. As my wife points out whenever I complain about work, I have a job that 99 percent of guys and many, many women would give their left something or other to have. It’s true and I appreciate it.
— ABC 7 Chicago (@ABC7Chicago) September 15, 2014
This exposure, however, sometimes leaves me thinking that the sports world sucks. Not the sports, the sports themselves are beautiful. But some of the people who play the sports and some of the people who organize them are despicable. You see, I spend a lot of time editing stories, posting stories working on stories of athletes, owners, and others behaving badly. Most people read a paragraph or two and move on. Not me. Whether it’s Sandusky molesting children or Adrian Peterson beating them, I have to read every story, every day, day after day.
I’m not complaining. Really. I have worked many different kinds of jobs in my life — from assembly line to telemarketing to food service and many things in between — and I realize that I have it easy. Every day, every hour people sweat and toil to put food on their tables. I won’t disrespect them by saying that I have it rough. No way.
I’m just saying that seeing how they make the sausage changes your feeling about eating it. Looking behind the curtain at the athletes who play these great sports has created conflict in my mind, has made something pure more complicated.
I grew up loving sports. As a kid I would drag blankets and pillows into the family room, make a big pile and pretend I was plowing into the line of scrimmage with my Nerf football as college football blared from the TV all afternoon. From organized sports to pick-up games after school, my friends and I played sports constantly. Baseball, Whiffle ball, football, basketball, Nerf hoops, you name it, we did it … in joyful oblivion.
And we worshiped our sports heroes. Payton, Jordan, Buckner, Sandberg, we pretended we were them like all kids do. We didn’t know about their personal lives. There wasn’t as much media back then. Kids don’t watch that much news. It was easy to love the athletes within the context of the games. It was pure.
Even as I got older, my fandom allowed me to compartmentalize the personal failings of athletes and let me concentrate on the actions on the field. Jordan gambling, cheating on his wife? I barely heard the stories through my Bulls fan earmuffs.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 17, 2014
It’s not so easy now. The crimes seem to have amplified in degree and volume. Cheating on your wife is morally reprehensible, but it’s not illegal. Child abuse, domestic violence, that’s a whole new ballgame. I can’t compartmentalize that. I look at my own kids and wonder how, why.
Charles Barkley said years ago that athletes shouldn’t be role models. He created a lot of controversy then but now seems like he was ahead of his time. We don’t really know the person inside the uniform, just like we don’t know the movie star behind the makeup. Most are people just like you and me. They have their good points and bad, but they’re mostly good. Others are horrible, and those are the ones I read about all too often.
So as I fight being jaded, I find a young team like the Cubs to be totally refreshing. Who can’t look at Jorge Soler’s smile after he blasts another homer and not rediscover your love of the game? The team is so young and hungry that they are closer to the sandlot than the penthouse. Their love of the game is still palpable. Some of them will become big stars, make silly money, run with the wrong crowd and make bad decisions that seem to accompany riches and fame.
I’ll be editing stories about their downfall and it will suck. But right now a team like the Cubs offers a respite from the harsh realities, and I’m thankful for that.
You can reach us at Cubs Fan Therapy.