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March 18, 1992 - Image 10

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-03-18

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Page 10-The Michigan Daily- Wednesday, March 18, 1992

SPORTING VIEWS

l

Professional athletes must be held
accountable for their behavior

J1

by Brett Forrest
Daily Sports Writer
A person with a selective mem-
ory can recall a time when most pro-
fessional athletes played for the love
of the game. These athletes played
the game for what the game meant to
them, not for the salary. That time,
for the most part, is long gone. The
desire for competition has been re-
placed by big-money television con-
tracts and the oftentimes idolatrous
promise of never having to work
when one's athletic career comes to
an end.
The athletes of today's society
are aware of their money-making
potential early in their adolescent ca-
reers; this "heightened" awareness
manifests itself later in broken
promises, contract squabbles, and
the disappearance of honorable rela-
tionships between administrators and
players - things that were virtually
taboo in days of yore. This altered
attitude results in numerous damag-
ing moments for sport in general and
the athlete in particular.
One often hears athletic greats of
the past speak of the "good old
days." They tell of a time when the
average professional athlete had a
second job in the offseason. They
recall an era when intimidation was
a key component to any winning
team. The players on those teams
utilized brains and brawn to strike
fear in the hearts of their opponents.
The athletes of today are differ-
ent. They make hundreds of thou-
sands of dollars - and sometimes
millions - to show off their skills.
Teams still intimidate, but on a dif-
ferent level. Stress is now placed on
how many times a player has been
on the cover of Sports Illustrated
and how much money he is making
as a result of his most recent contract
renegotiation.
The most important factor in this
change has been the advent of exten-
sive television coverage of sports. It
has played a huge role in the trans-
formation of both professional sports
and athletes. Thanks to the master-
minded agenda of Pete Rozelle and

his counterparts in other sports, ex-
ecutives from most major television
networks are now paying millions
and even billions of dollars to tele-
vise professional and college sports.
This has transformed the modern
athlete's audience from a few hun-
dred thousand fans in a local area to
millions across the country and
across the world. Athletes can now
be made famous or infamous practi-
cally overnight.
Professional athletes are treated
as gods today. Many young children
look up to them, as they always
have. Even adults seem to forget
these athletes are real people, human
beings. This feeling of invincibility
is not lost on the athlete of today's
world - in fact, he plays to it.

else would Roy Tarpley put his repu-
tation and his job in peril over and
over, just for drugs? And, of course,
why else would a former undisputed
heavyweight champion of the world
endanger everything he held dear for
the sexual pleasure from one night
with an eighteen year-old woman?
These athletes, and many like
them, have clearly chosen an unlaw-
ful path. Almost daily, one can look
in the newspaper and find a blemish
on the face of sports. Whether it is a
college football player skipping
classes or a pro hockey player com-
mitting vehicular homicide, it all
adds up to the oils that paint a very
ugly picture of professional sports.
The collective head of profes-
sional athletes has grown very large

combine to form a dangerous and
detrimental attitude towards society.
Professional athletes belong to
one of the last group of heroes for
young people in our society. When a
child's pro sports hero acts poorly,
what will stop the child from striving
to duplicate his actions? Millions of
people continue to worship Mike
Tyson. What will stop them from
sexually violating woman? Mike
Tyson attained the status of a
demigod through his choice of pro-
fession and his prowess in that field.
He did not save lives or protect the
planet from certain destruction. Yet,
he was given the status of a super-
man, and he wielded this power in
an unjust and unfair manner over the
heads of his young subjects to the
point of a cultural stupor.
Many professional athletes must
act more like responsible adults. We,
as fans, can mandate that change.
We are the ones paying $20 for
the cheap seats and $35 for closed-
circuit coverage. We are the ones
paying Brian Bosworth his millions.
After all of this, how can we stand to
be treated in this manner by our
heroes? This question is continually
asked, with the same reaction from
the fan - passiveness. How much
higher can athletes' salaries rise be-
fore we reexamine their overall con-
duct?
It has been made clear that these
people must take it upon themselves
to put integrity back into the words
"professional athlete." Until they do,
their names will continue to be
spread infamously across the sec-
tions of the newspapers other than
the sports pages.
Sports have provided uplifting
moments for many members of our
society. From the constant partici-
pant to the casual observer, athletics
have enhanced millions of lives. By
watching Michael Jordan soar
through the air, we are all included
in his magic. When we wonder at
Nolan Ryan's longevity, we are all
included within a small family.
Here is the real purpose of sport
- to provide inspiration, hope and

#1

Detroit Red Wing Bob Probert (left) is escorted from prison by his lawyer after
serving a three-month sentence for smuggling cocaine.
wonder. There should be fewer inci- and of the new moralism, where any-
dents of Charles Barkley spitting on thing goes, is upon us and it has
opposing fans. One should not have swallowed up the professional ath-
to read about offseason barroom lete in one gulp. Professional ath-
brawls. letes have intellects - they should
There should be more moments use them to stop this moralistic
like Bobby Orr scoring the Stanley lapse. They should realize what their
Cup-winning goal in 1970. There notoriety is doing to society. Their
should be more plays that send one's actions are the most believed exam-
blood rushing, as in 1980 with ples of proper conduct for children
Dwight Clark's touchdown catch in in our world.
the NFC Championship Game. One They must have a greater purpose
should see more home runs like that in life than making a million dollars
of Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World or scoring fifty goals. We place pro-
Series. Bjorn Borg and John fessional athletes on a pedestal,
McEnroe should battle out their whether they deserve the honor or
1980 Wimbledon tiebreaker again not. The time has come to demand
and again. Sports were meant to that they earn our veneration. They
provide these moments of suspense have violated our trust long enough.
and anxiety. We can no longer stand idly by
Too many people look up to ath- while pro athletes take our dollars
letes as though they were almost su- and break our hearts. Sure, they de-
perhuman, yet they continually serve to bring home top-quality ba-
prove these beliefs wrong. In the con, but they must also be held ac-
past, a higher percentage of athletes countable for their actions. There has
conducted themselves with decorum. to be a change. Let us get back to the
In today's world, many sports fig- old ways of sports. Let us get back
ures could not care less about their to old values. The time has come for
actions and images. us to be able to trust professional
The age of the "television god" athletes once again.

.IL" rt-i
Tennis bad boy John McEnroe's behavior should not be tolerated. Pro
athletes make far too much money to be acting juvenile.

*

Eventually, he can even get the idea
that he is above the law.
Why else would Pete Rose jeop-
ardize his vaunted baseball reputa-
tion by continually breaking the
rules of both his sport and his coun-
try? Why would Dexter Manley risk
his pro football career on a con-
trolled substance and Bob Probert
challenge professional sports'
toughest drug policy and the laws of
two countries by smuggling cocaine
into the U.S. from Canada? Why

in the past two decades. The cause of
this is aforementioned. The results
are numerous. Young fans now con-
centrate on how much money their
favorite player is making, instead of
the statistics garnered on the playing
field. Many young athletes imitate
their hero's methods of showboating
and cockiness.
The professional athlete's seem-
ingly carefree lifestyle is also copied
by many youngsters. These ways of
emulating professional athletes

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