Saturday, January 26, 2013

From Let Manti Te'o be the end of sports hero worship

Thought this was an interesting story by Howard Kurtz over on, mostly because he admits sportswriters' culpability and participation in the sports hero worship mentality. I haven't commented on the whole Manti Te'o debacle in this blog just because I can't even wrap my head around what the hell he was thinking, whether he was in on it or not, but I talked about Lance Armstrong in my last blog post. Kurtz doesn't really address what's wrong with the idea of worshipping sports heroes in the first place, but as a former reporter, I appreciate that he takes the sportswriting world to task for not questioning red flags, for not asking the tough questions when they need to be asked, and for forgiving too easily. Read the whole article here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

When heroes fall: Lance Armstrong admits to doping

Well, we were told the former seven-time Tour de France winner would confess to using performance enhancing drugs in his interview with Oprah last night night, and he did.

Has the sports world screeched to a halt? Unfortunately not. That's the professional sports world we live in today.

To some extent, I can understand why Armstrong did it - in a sports culture where professional athletes are doping so much that they're breaking records left and right, if you are relying simply on God-given talent, even if it's phenomenal talent, you simply cannot compete. There is implicit and explicit pressure to dope. All things being equal, you cannot beat someone who has given themselves that unfair edge.

But even though I can understand, I can't excuse, because using performance enhancing drugs is embracing a win-at-all-cost attitude, which Armstrong admits. It's professional athletes showing us and more importantly our children that winning is the most important thing, even when it's because of cheating, even when it's at the cost of the integrity of the sport and the integrity of your character. When we're trying to teach our children that sportsmanship, love of the game, and a game well played, even if it's not won, is what it's about, professional athletes show them that all of this is not enough.

The Lance Armstrong situation is even more heartbreaking because of his battles with cancer. He overcame life-threatening cancer twice to compete - and win, or so we thought. That was an inspirational story we could look to, that we could point out to our children, but it was just a fairy tale. The sad thing is, even if Armstrong hadn't won those Tours, the fact that he overcame cancer just to compete, just to ride another day, would have been inspirational enough. People would've loved that story. The story of someone who fights for a dream, even if he doesn't win, is a story people will always get behind. Hello - Rocky, anyone?

So yeah, it's heartbreaking when our heroes fall, when we find out that for them, being great wasn't good enough. I admit to being upset the day Andy Pettitte admitted to using performance enhancing drugs. I think of one of my all-time sports heroes - Derek Jeter - who I believe to be a player of integrity and who has a love of the game and happens to be an extraordinarily gifted athlete and I think, what if he was to admit to it? I don't believe he's part of this culture, but you never know. The use is so rampant that it sullies the image of everybody.

But the truth is, professional athletes are human. They are just like the rest of us - except a lot richer. They make mistakes. They do stupid things. They're arrogant and egotistical and full of $h*t. So why are these the people we choose to look up to, to be our heroes? Yes, because they are famous, because they are public figures, we can point to them and say to our children, "This is someone to look up to." But if we're going to choose flawed humans - and who isn't one? - for our children (and ourselves to look up to), maybe we're better off pointing out the teachers in their schools or the policeman or firefighter down the street or even our children's grandparents or maybe even ourselves. Our athletes - and other celebrities, but that's a story for another blog - certainly don't want the pressure and certainly don't feel the need to be the heroes we make them out to be.

And so really, today is just another day - another suspected dopers admits to cheating. It's become the norm. Some people will forgive Armstrong. For others, his vehement denials over the years and a sense of betrayal will make it impossible to forgive. Some will see this as his trying to make amends. Others will sense that it's simply a PR ploy. If you were a Livestrong supporter, keep supporting them, even if you initially did it because of Armstrong. He is no longer affiliated with them and they still do good work. The fact is, Armstrong is just the latest athlete to come clean (no pun intended). He certainly won't be the last. Heroes will rise and fall, we'll continue to teach our children to love the game and hope that's enough, and the world will keep on turning.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

NFL playoffs: another weekend in January, another day of deciding who to root for

So hockey is coming back, the Knicks & Nets are floundering, nobody got into the baseball Hall of Fame this year, and the rumor is that Lance Armstrong is going to admit to doping, which if he does, I will address in another post, but right now, football is still in play, and I need to decide who I'm going to root for.

Today we have the Ravens playing the Broncos at 4:30, and the Packers playing the 49ers at 8. Today is actually a pretty straightforward decision for me - I'm not a fan of any of these teams, but as we all know, I am a huge fan of both Peyton Manning (the QB for the Broncos) and Aaron Rodgers (the QB for the Packers), so those are the teams I'm going with. Tomorrow is a little harder - Seahawks versus Falcons at 1, which, eh - I really don't have a preference. And at 4:30, it's the Texans versus the Patriots. That game, it's not so much who I'm rooting for as who I'm rooting AGAINST, so say it with me, everyone outside the New England area - let's go Texans!!

How are your teams doing so far in the playoffs? Are they still in it or are you having to find secondary teams to root for?

Friday, January 4, 2013

NFL playoff picture: who to root for when your team isn't in it...

Tomorrow starts the wild card round of the NFL playoffs. If you're lucky, you still have your home team in the running to make it to the Super Bowl in about a month. But if you're like this fan girl, whose team let her down COLOSSALLY this year, or your team just didn't make the cut despite the best of efforts, then to keep the playoffs interesting, you need to find somebody else to root for...or at least somebody to root against. You could keep the Super Bowl interesting by investing a few bucks in a Super Bowl pool - that way you have a team AND a score to root for - but that's still a month away. You may navigate these next few weeks of playoff play your own way, but let's see who I'm considering (be forewarned - some of my decision-making methods make sense; some follow girl-logic):

1. Washington Redskins - yes, they beat out my New York Giants for the NFC East, but deservedly so...and considering how half-heartedly the Giants played, I don't even say that begrudgingly. They're a young team with a lot of passion and heart and they WANT each win...and they have a whole city in the nation's capital dying to support a breakout team with breakout players, dying for a Super Bowl win. Plus, they still kinda have underdog status. In lieu of having an actual team to root for, I like to adopt the underdog as my own.

2. Green Bay Packers - I couldn't care less about this team but if you read this blog, you know I am a HUGE Aaron Rodgers fan. Besides being a great QB, he seems like a class-act, and I would like to see him get a Super Bowl win.

3. Denver Broncos - ditto everything I said about the Packers but substitute "Peyton Manning" for "Aaron Rodgers" and add "another" in front of "a Super Bowl win." Especially after the way the Colts treated him, I love that Peyton has come back better than ever from the injuries that sidelined him last year.

1. New England Patriots - That robot Tom Brady. Hated enemies of my Giants. 'Nuff said.