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Living Out Loud: : The Privileged Athlete

They are not better people

By Lee Butler · August 15th, 2007 · Living Out Loud

Earlier in the year I saw an interesting sports headline. It claimed that the game was over for Pacman Jones of the Tennessee Titans. I guess after so many of its players being arrested last year the new NFL commissioner decided to make an example of him.

If you were to take a look at a majority of professional sports, you would find out that many of these "heroes" have criminal records. Up to now, many of us probably never cared about the dark side of the professional athlete. We just compared them to the toy soldiers that we kept in the closet and took out when we were ready for them to entertain us.

Sure, we complain about levies that will raise our property taxes as we don't want to pay to educate our children -- but we will pay thousands of dollars to see our favorite rock stars, athletes and movie stars. We don't care if they do drugs, get arrested for driving while intoxicated, write books about how they didn't kill their former spouses (allegedly) or organize a dog fighting ring (allegedly). We can't seem to bring ourselves to believe that some of these people are miserable human beings. We want our entertainment.

Last year several of our Bengals players saw the inside of a jail cell. How many of us dumped our season tickets or boycotted their merchandise? Most likely, not a single fan. We watched the incident, shrugged our shoulders and shouted, "Who Dey." We want to win and don't care how it's done.

The late General Patton once said, "America loves a winner and will not tolerate a loser."

If you don't win a championship, then you are a loser. At the end of every sports season, many coaches and players are either fired or released. With these modern day gladiators, it's all about youth and talent.

You say your favorite athlete can throw a 200 mph fastball? He can throw a football 399 yards? He has a bionic arm and can hit 300 home runs a season? Well, we won't mention the day he got intoxicated and ran over some innocent woman. Who cares if she died and left behind a husband and a son? Just throw two touchdowns on Sunday so I can beat the spread and collect my money.

I think you get the point. We forget that athletes are human; they eat, drink and feel pain like the rest of us.

I have been a sports fan my entire life. I love to see camaraderie and teamwork in action. When we saw the Buffalo Bills come back and win after being down 35-3 many years ago, we saw the impossible. We saw a team pull together and win. It's amazing what we can do when we work together. The philosophy of sports can be applied to everything we do in life.

I don't want you to put these gifted athletes on a pedestal. They shouldn't be our role models. Unfortunately, this point can't be made to a starry-eyed 11-year-old child. They look at these athletes as gods or heroes. For the professional athlete, they are fortunate enough to have a God-given talent that people will pay millions to watch.

I guarantee that, if your favorite running back averages 30 touchdowns a year, he won't be released for a DUI. A superstar receives special treatment from his team.

Think back to the days when there were baseball players who were suspended numerous times for drug abuse. Normal citizens couldn't lead the police on a high-speed chase without getting beaten or killed by the police. Commoners also get sent to prison for DUIs and drug abuse, not to mention terminated from their jobs for getting arrested.

Does anyone remember back in the day when a criminal act left a person in disgrace? Professional athletes get to serve time during the off season or get sentenced to rehabilitation. It seems that getting into trouble is a rite of passage for many of today's athletes.

If they commit crimes, they should be punished accordingly as we commoners would. Unfortunately, this isn't how our society works. We make exceptions for the beautiful and the wealthy. We must always remember this about athletes: They are not better people, just better athletes.



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