Sadly I have to admit that I am embarrassed by the state of sports and sportsmanship today. Being in the profession of training athletes I take very seriously the underlying lessons that are prevalent in training young people. When I see the negative results that become evident in athlete and fan behavior; when coaches, administrators and parents don’t proactively deal with sportsmanship it makes me sad. Sad and embarrassed.
I was shocked a few weeks ago when I saw a kid, about 12, wearing a Badger shirt with “Fu** You” on it. Apparently there is an accompanying shirt that says “Eat Sh**” and it reflects the cheer that the audience does at Badger games. One side shouts Eat Sh** and the other side responds Fu** you! Wow, we’ve come a long way since “We got spirit yes we do…” But what does that say about us? I couldn’t take my 6-year-old to a game knowing the questions I would have to answer. I do explain everything to my son and when I caught him dropping the F bomb he got an explanation of what the word means and why ignorant people with no language skills have to use the word. I know he will hear it, probably use it in the future too, so it’s not that I’m playing Pollyanna. But how do I explain that that many people, in one place, must be ignorant and have such limited vocabulary that they have to use those words? That many people in one place? It’s monkey see, monkey do (see previous posts) with added low standards. I ask myself what would people of honor do in this situation? What if, my idol, Coach John Wooden’s Bruin fans did such a cheer. Coach Wooden would make a statement to the press that “his team” will leave the floor and forfeit the game if it happens again. But Coach Beilma and Athletic Director Alverez don’t have Wooden’s vision or standards do they? It’s embarassing that the Badgers fans behave this way and the people in charge of the teams allow it, and by not discouraging it they actually condone it. What if Alvarez made a statement that the Badgers would leave the field if it occurred. The forfeit would be caused by fan behavior, we couldn’t blame the AD or the coach, but we would. He would be vilified and he’d probably get fired. What a conundrum. We look for leadership and when it is executed we would reject it.
I listened to a gym mom telling about a H.S. hockey game where the opposing team fans, including parents, chant “Bullsh**” when the official makes a call against their team. No outrage from the coaches, the officials or anyone in the stands other than this one mom (apparently). It’s funny. Or is it? Other parents called out to the officials with graphic language and rude comments, they boo’ed the other team when plays were made and the final score was… wait for it… the offending team winning by 12! They were winning and that was their behavior? What would happen if they were losing. The mom I was speaking with said that she didn’t complain because she was a little afraid of what could happen to her, or her son as a repercussion of the complaint. Gangland mentality on ice: fans who are afraid to speak out is not an atmosphere of sportsmanship. I guess my kids won’t go to H.S. hockey games either.
We watched the Packer game last week and my wife was so upset that Michael Vick was allowed to play. We are dog people and his crimes made him a horrible human being in our sight, but I feel that legally he has paid his dues. He has done his time and hopefully he has learned his lesson. The disappointing part is that he is allowed to play in the NFL. Their standards are so low that they allow dog killers, rapists, sex offenders and violent criminals to play just because they are good at the game. The privilege of making a living by playing a game (and doing quite well at it, I might add) is honored regardless of their behavior. Yet at the same time a few weeks back, they penalized a guy for grand-standing when he made a touchdown. Honestly I don’t really follow the NFL because I can’t accept the hypocrisy of it. They try to implement morality rules while ignoring criminal violations. You cannot dramatically hold the ball up and fall into the end zone to score because it’s bad sportsmanship but hosting dog fights in your 20 million dollar estate is OK, just do an ad for the Humane Society and it’s all good.
If the NFL actually stood up and said “break the law and you never play again” we would still have good players playing, maybe we would lose a few stars, but who needs them. What are they truly showing us about sportsmanship? If we want them playing because they epitomize the highest level of performance in skill, then lets take it to the next level. Allow steroids. Let them get roided up, puffy and violent. Let them entertain us with violent play and then we would have no expectations of morality. No complaints about violent children either, it would inevitably happen of course, but we could accept it. We could quarantine pro-athletes from “real society” because they are a risk, but fun to watch. College sports could have limited enhancements and high school would have to go with just natural violent aggressive behavior. Then I could explain to my children that they shouldn’t behave like those guys because they are animals, sub-human. Would that be OK?
When will we learn, as sports fans, that the behavior we allow will be reflected in our children? I don’t want my kids emulating Michael Vick, Bret Favre or Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t want them chanting crude language at officials, I don’t want them wearing a shirt that would make their Grandma ashamed of them. So how do we change it? Easy. Stop spending money on it. Stop chanting. Stop buying jerseys. Write a letter to Barry and ask him how you should explain it to your children at the game. Take the people who condone this and put their feet to the fire. Let them know that we’re tired of being embarrassed.
I’m proud to be a Madisonian and to have our Badgers reach the pinnacle of college football: the Rose Bowl, but I won’t attend a game or advocate attending until they step it up. Until they set standards that our athletes AND our fans should aspire to. Do you feel the same? Let someone know; we cannot contact Athletic Director Barry Alverez or Coach Brett Beilma directly. The closest we can get is to get a member of the administration. Ask them when the UW will deliver a team as strong in character as they are in skill? Because anyone can train a monkey to do a certain skill, it’s getting the monkey to behave before and after that is the true gift of coaching sports. How about it sports fans?