Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Untitled Sports Rant

I got something in my craw today, boys...and maybe you can help me get it out. I'm fed up with professional athletes. There, I said it. Fed up. The latest reason? The Sheffield/Sox-Fan mess. And here's why. Every freaking article I read (from Sporting News or SI or ESPN) and every radio host I hear (from Dan Patrick to Jim Rome to whoever) keeps talking about giving Sheffield a lenient punishment "because he could have reacted much worse." Like the fact that he shoved the guy should be forgotten simply because he didn't shove him and then punch him and then kick him in the face. I heard Dan Patrick a few days ago talking about "how tough it is for a guy to not respond when someone strikes them..." and that we should "give Sheffield credit for calming himself down and not doing more." Man, if ever there was a logic-free argument...this is it right here.

Now, I have never been in a fight. I've never been in a fight besides with my brother when we were growing up, and that doesn't count. I've been punched and kicked. I had a guy in high school threaten to kill me if I didn't give him fifty cents for a Coke. I got thrown against the lockers by gang members. I've had rocks, tape dispensers, and a number of other strange objects thrown at me. My college sweetheart cheated on me with my roommate....THREE TIMES, and yet I never kicked that guy's ass. My point is that I could easily have gotten to this point in my life having been in 50 fights. But I didn't take the bait on any of them.

The true reason I never fought--at least for most of them--was fear. I am, and have always been, a fairly big wuss. I'm not buff or remotely strong. And I don't take any Fight-Club-inspired pleasure from getting hurt or hurting others. But the point is that I have had numerous chances to punch a guy in the face in response to something physical he did to me...and not done it. Why are we praising Sheffield for this. It is not a super human ability to take a punch without throwing a retaliation punch. It sort of ties to what you were saying, Chris, about the beer companies forcing this image upon us of what a real guy is: stupid, loves beer and women. Only here the force-fed notion is that a guy MUST lash out at anyone who hits or shoves them, retaliating in kind. I'm not that guy. Chris, you're not that guy, are you? I don't know too many guys that are, as Rome would say, "likes to fight" guys. Why are we giving Sheffield so much rope here by claiming any decent, normal guy would have shoved that fan?

It's a symptom of a larger problem with sports: The athletes are the modern day gods, and they act like they aren't responsible in the same way we are...and it's because they aren't! We let them off the hook in about every way we can think of. Leonard Little...twice off the hook for drunk driving (don't forget he killed a woman the first time). We laugh at TO when he disrespects people. Hell, the best linebacker in the NFL was arrested for murder. McNair got off. Sheffield gets praised for "not hitting that guy more." We also bend the rules of the sport we love so that they can achieve greater greatness...such as refs "letting them play" during big games.

Sorry, I'm digressing...trying to write this too fast.

Man, this all reminds me of that movie Quiz Show, which is one of my personal favorites. It's about the rigged game shows in the 50's and the Senate Committee hearings on the matter. At the end...when the aristocratic, college-professor hero finally admits to Congress that he cheated on the game show...he practically gets a standing ovation. Senators fall all over each other to tell him, "It was very brave for you to do what you just did." But one crusty old guy, who clearly "gets it", isn't standing for it...and he says something along the lines of "I cannot give you praise for simply, at long last, telling the truth."

This is what I want to say to Sheffield: "You shoved a fan. Who cares what he did to you first. That fan pays your salary. He was wrong...but so were you. I refuse to give you praise for simply stopping yourself from beating him to a pulp. You should have never hit him."

Remember that T.O./Desperate Housewives skit from Monday Night Football? I remember posting a letter here that I wrote to one of the USAToday guys, Jeff Ziglitt. He (and every other idiot analyst) had kept saying: "What's the big deal with a sexy skit? It's nothing the kids don't see the cheerleaders wearing or see in beer ads?" And that's just outright offensive to my sense of logic. I agree with his literal point...that there's sex elsewhere in the NFL. BUT THAT DOESN'T MAKE IT RIGHT!! It's like the robber saying to the judge: "Your Honor, I know I robbed that guy, but I'm far from the only person robbing people...spare me." Or, "Your Honor, I robbed that guy, but I could've killed him...shouldn't I get leniency for stopping where I did?"

Okay, rant nearing completion. I know Sheffield "barely" shoved that fan...but he SHOVED him! I'm tired of overanalysis of players' and fans' actions. Assault is assault is assault. Some guy in a bar does to me what either the fan or Sheffield did to each other...and I'm calling the cops and pressing charges. Assault. Just because a guy can hit .350 with 40 home runs doesn't make him above the law. It doesn't give him any extra "beating freedom" in this world. Unless we let it. And we, as a country, seem to be letting it. We're such a celebrity and star obsessed culture...most average citizens would rather see the "best athletes" competing, regardless of their errors. I can tell you one thing: I can't hit .350 in the majors, and I can't hit 40 homers either...but I can sure as hell play outfield without assaulting fans. I can sure as hell take a punch without having to then throw one.


At 4/21/2005 08:36:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Good post. The overpraising from the press stems from the terrible thing that happened in Detroit earlier in the year. I think people were just so damn happy it didn't turn into an all out brawl that they are overpraising Sheffield. However, I do think the initial shove was in defense; he didn't know if the guy was coming back at him; it was an initial reaction. Although, it's funny that no one is mentioning that if he had gotten the ball in sooner Varitek might not have scored and it would have only been a one run game. And with the beer being spilt I think it looked like a lot more than it was. So, while I don't think Sheffield should really be punished, I sure as hell don't think he should be looked at as a God for restraining from further actions.

At 4/21/2005 11:50:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Yeah, I'm certainly not the type to just go shoving people, but I would have said something. I guess the real quandary is that these guys don't know what fans' intentions are. We've seen the incident where fans jumped on the field and beat up a first base coach, and there are countless other instances where fans run onto the field. In Boston in 2003, both Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia of the Yankees got into it with a fan and there were arrests. I think there's a lot of baiting going on, and in the heat of a game between hated rivals, it seems to flare up worse than it should.

I think the point could come across without physical contact, and Sheffield could have easily gotten the authorities involved before doing anything himself. It's a gray area, and that's why so many people are divided on punishing him. I think he should be, personally.


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