The Criminals in College Sports Debate Verdict

March 29, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

 

I must give my colleagues, Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, credit. After two years of working together, debating all the biggest issues in sports, they managed to bring out yet another first in TSD history!

For the first time ever, I actually disagree with BOTH arguments (well, at least partly).

The question was to debate whether or not coaches and universities should look into juvenile records before deciding which recruits to extend scholarship offers to. Both Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, although arguing for very different causes, essentially raised the same point – that character matters in sports.

According to Sports Geek, character matters in the sense that it helps people to gain experience. To Sports Geek, growth and second chances for everyone, not just athletes, to make us all better people. Past mistakes do not always serve as an indicator for future actions, though, and so Sports Geek feels that they should not be held against the children (that, after all, is what they are) who commit them.

On the other hand, Loyal Homer argues that character matters, which is precisely why college sports need to clean up their act. Too much is forgiven in sports, and it is tarnishing the reputation of what is supposed to be honest and fair play among student athletes. Instead, we hear more and more about Player ‘X’ from university ‘Y’ and their escapades that resulted in someone getting arrested, or worse, hurt.

But as I said, I disagree with both of them – Character does NOT matter in sports.

We like to SAY that character matters in sports, and realistically, it SHOULD matter in sports, but it is time for us all to stop perpetuating the lie.

We don’t care about character in our athletes at all. We want our athletes to win, and that’s it. We as a fan base may curse athletes who commit some act of moral or criminal wrongdoing. But then we conveniently turn that ire off when the player brings greater success to our team.

It is true that the Florida Gators had a plethora of criminal charges stocking their active roster for the past five football seasons. But they also have two National Championships during that stretch. What do you think Gator fans care about? Would any of them trade in even one of those two National Championships to clear the names of their beloved team’s roster? Hardly.

When Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes caught TD passes in the New York Jets playoff victory over the New England Patriots, were any of the Jets fans booing them?

How long did it take before Steelers fans welcomed Ben Roethlisberger back into the fold with open arms? My guess is about 20 minutes and 20 seconds into his first game back, when he completed a scoring pass to Mike Wallace.

It is time to stop pretending that we demand our athletes to live to a greater moral standard, because when push comes to shove we do not really care at all.

But now that it is time to step off of my soap box, I still need to crown a winner for this debate.

Just because I fundamentally disagree with the key message in both arguments, that does not mean I disagree with their entire arguments. And while I disagree with the principle of Sports Geek’s position, it is for that exact same reason that I am awarding him the verdict.

Because an athlete’s character does not REALLY matter to us in sports, past flaws should not be counted against recruits. As Sports Geek points out, kids make mistakes all the time. Some may be more serious than others, but that does not mean that they should be excluded from the opportunity to better themselves.

In fact, if we as fans REALLY want to see those games that we love cleaned up, then we absolutely MUST forgive the past transgressions of the kids that make childish mistakes. Those who are supposed to be “responsible” adults should assume that responsibility and actually COACH these kids. That’s right – It is the program administrators that must be held to the higher standard.

Coaches like Bruce Pearl, Jim Tressel, Lane Kiffin, and countless others are the ones setting the example for these kids that it is okay to bend and break the rules as long as you win games, and THAT is where accountability should be held.

In many cases, these coaches will have a greater impact on the lives of the student athletes than anyone else ever could. They need to act as mentors, role models, and leaders for the kids they are guiding. If they can live up to a higher standard, I can GUARANTEE you that the athletes will follow suit.

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The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… I Want to Live in Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Optimist Prime.

Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, or Mark Sanchez?

In the TV hit game show Million Dollar Money Drop, if those are my four options, I’m putting the whole $1M on Aaron Rodgers.

It’s that simple. If I am running a professional football team with just one game left to win, and those are my four options, Aaron Rodgers is the guy I want under center, and for good reason. In the three seasons since taking over Green Bay’s drivers’ seat after what’s-his-name left, Rodgers has become one of the brightest young stars in the NFL.

In just a quick comparison between Rodgers and the guy he took over for (I think his name was Brett something… Favre, that’s it!) through their first three seasons as starters for the Packers:

  • Rodgers started 47 games, Favre started 47 games
  • Rodgers passed for 12,394 yards, Favre passed for 10,412 yards
  • Rodgers passed for 86 TDs, Favre passed for 70 TDs
  • Rodgers passed for 31 interceptions, Favre passed for 51 interceptions
  • Rodgers led the Pack to a combined record of 27-20, Favre’s record was 26-19

That’s right. Rodgers has already started off his career better than the greatest quarterback statistically to ever play the game. But the fact that he is already off to a better career than Favre at this point is only part of the reason why I would choose Rodgers as the field general leading my team into battle.

The REAL reason why Rodgers is the ONLY man I would want taking snaps for my team is not how he performs in the regular season, but how he performs in the post-season.

In three playoff appearances so far Rodgers has passed for 969 yards (323 yards per game average) with 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Oh yeah, he also has two rushing scores to add to that total.

It doesn’t matter who is on the field with him, Aaron Rodgers will find a way to get the ball into the end zone.

This season Rodgers has had to find ways to win without his Pro Bowl running back, Ryan Grant, and his favorite target, Tight End Jermichael Finley. Still, he managed to win games. Now he is leading the Packers into the NFC Championship Game as the hottest quarterback still playing.

Aaron Rodgers has already outgunned Michael Vick and Matt Ryan, two of the so-called top quarterbacks in the NFC. With those two out of the picture, and Tom Brady having fallen to the New York Jets, there is no quarterback left standing that can match Rodgers’ performance on the field.

Rodgers may not have the resume of Ben Roethlisberger, or the supporting cast of superstars like Mark Sanchez has in LaDanian Tomlinson and S’Antonio Holmes, but if I need one guy to win one game for me, Aaron Rodgers is that guy!

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The Publicly Grading Officials Debate VERDICT

October 14, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

Today’s debate is not about whether leagues should grade officials, but whether those grades should be public knowledge.

This is an extremely important issue in sports because there is a great deal at stake. On the one hand, if publically grading officials encourages them to perform better then it would improve the overall quality of the sports we love so much, but if it does not have this effect than it could serve to seriously undercut the authority of officials.

Bleacher Fan based his argument off of the need for increased accountability through transparency in the way leagues evaluate officials. He believes that officials are afforded the ability to hide behind a wall of anonymity when it comes to corrective efforts meant to redress poor officiating. He finds this to be hypocritical considering the high profile nature of every other aspect of sports. He pointed out that the actions taken against players, coaches, and team management for poor performance is usually very public, yet the league’s efforts to correct problematic officiating remain highly secretive.

This point was definitely not lost on me. Sports fans are very aware of league actions taken against players and owners alike, but officials remain a different story. We all know about the not-so-private war between NBA commissioner David Stern and Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban. We all know about the leagues dealings with player with problematic players, such as Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick. But no one seems to know which officials, if any, are getting their butts handed to them behind closed doors. Bleacher Fan believes that this cloak in dagger approach cannot lead to anything good.

Bleacher Fan acknowledges the human aspect of the sports. He admits that no one is perfect, but that because we know that no one is perfect leagues should be more open about telling the public what officials grades are and what the leagues are doing to improve the lowest achievers.

Loyal Homer, however, states those grades should remain a secret. He challenges the logic behind releasing private evaluations to a public that is already highly critical of the job officials are doing in the first place. As Loyal Homer explains in his argument, public evaluations would only serve to further undermine the authority of officials.

He made a strong point for his argument when he aptly pointed out that evaluations are not intended for the purpose of establishing worst-to-first ranking of officials, but rather to specify the areas where each official needs to demonstrate professional growth. The goal behind assessing the job officials are doing is to encourage improvement, not to invalidate their authority, which very well could be the result of releasing performance evaluations. Loyal Homer stood firm in his belief that the mere fact that performance evaluations and the incorporation of assistive technologies (i.e. replay) exists to help officials is enough to ensure their validity and reliability as an arbitrator of the rules.

Loyal Homer’s argument raises concerns over the potential dangers of labeling officials due to their performance review grade. If publicized, referee and umpire ratings would be akin to restaurants sanitation grades. Can you imagine the grumbling and second guessing that would surround the calls of an umpire with a “C” rating (the equivalent of a sketchy IHOP)? Regardless of the accuracy, there would be those who would second-guess them solely on the basis of their performance grade. Similarly, in the mind of the public it would not matter whether the official met the minimum competencies established by the league because any official with a less than perfect score would be perceived to be doing a bad job.

Ultimately it was this comparison that made my decision. In the real world, not all workers deserve perfect performance reviews. If they did there would be a lot more Fortune 500 companies out there. The truth is that there are excellent, above average, average, below average, and poor employees in virtually every industry, including professional sports. Some officials are better than others, but publically acknowledging that fact and then highlighting the underachievers would only serve to create a distracting spectacle. Publically grading officials would do nothing to help them improve. Do you really think Jim Joyce would have tried harder to call Armando Galaragga’s near perfect game if he knew his evaluation would be in the media at the end of the year? I honestly think when an official screws up, the media usually covers it sufficiently. Ultimately it is because there is nothing gained but controversy and the undermining of authority by publically grading officials that I award this victory to Loyal Homer. Bleacher Fan can throw the red flag all he wants to, this is one call that is final.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Defensive Showdown in the Steel City

October 1, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless.

The best football game taking place this weekend is happening in the state of Pennsylvania.

No, it is NOT Donovan McNabb’s return to Philadelphia. The REAL action will be taking place in Western PA, as the Baltimore Ravens travel to Pittsburgh to take on the surprising 3-0 Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, WITHOUT Santonio Holmes, Ben Roethlisberger (or even Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich) have somehow managed to storm through the first three weeks of the regular season, remaining one of only three unbeaten teams left in the NFL. While it may be surprising that they have remained unblemished without the majority of their offensive talent from recent seasons, it is no secret how they have done it – defense!

Behind the leadership of Troy Polamalu, the Steelers currently claim the stingiest defense in the league, allowing a league-leading 33 total points on the season. In terms of rushing yards, they have posted the third best performance in the NFL to-date, allowing only 59.7 yards per game on the ground to this point in the season. That is especially impressive when you consider that they had to stop Michael Turner and Chris Johnson in accomplishing that feat.

As exciting as this start has been in Pittsburgh the team is still a week away from seeing Roethlisberger return to the field, at which point the Steelers can finally add some offense to their repertoire.

But, facing Baltimore sans-Roethlisberger will be the toughest challenge yet for Pittsburgh, and may end up being the toughest challenge faced all season. Although the Steelers have a top-ten defense, their week four opponents, the Baltimore Ravens, boast the absolute BEST defense the NFL has to offer.

In fact, the Ravens have allowed the fewest yards per game in the league – 244.3 yards per game – through the first three weeks of the season (a total which would have been MUCH lower if not for Peyton Hillis’ surprise performance last weekend). To give you an idea of just how good the Ravens’ pass defense is, there were five different quarterbacks last week who passed for more yards in a SINGLE GAME than the Ravens have allowed in a combined three games.

The Ravens are no slouch in the points-allowed category either, ranking fourth by giving up only eight points more than the Steelers with 41 points allowed.

Now on offense, these two teams are a different story, although both seemed to come alive a little bit last weekend.

For Pittsburgh, offensive struggles were expected since Roethlisberger is still serving his suspension. So when they managed to put up 38 points last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they were likely just as surprised as you and I.

Baltimore, on the other hand, has been a bit of a let down on offense.

Thanks to the additions of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, along with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, everyone expected offense to be Baltimore’s strongest suit of the season (especially after they lost Ed Reed to injury). But even with those weapons on offense, the Ravens have only managed to put 44 total points on the board (the fifth worst total in the league). Fortunately, when you have Ray Lewis on your roster, 44 points is still enough to start the season off at 2-1.

Forget about Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb, this Sunday in Pittsburgh we will get to see the league’s top defenses duke it out in an AFC North showdown to determine whose really is the best in the league.

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The Attending 2010 NFL Training Camp Debate… Where the Steel is No Longer Stainless

July 19, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

Last year at this time spirits could not have been higher in and around the city of Pittsburgh.

The beloved Steelers were coming into training camp as the reigning Super Bowl champions. They were returning many of the stars that helped them one season earlier. The team appeared as likely as any other team in the NFL to be right on course for another playoff-caliber season (with the hopes of successfully defending a championship at another Super Bowl well within reach).

What a difference a year makes!

As the 2009-2010 NFL season (and offseason) wore on, the Steelers were on the short end of many sticks, both on AND off the field. The result today is a sense of frustration, and perhaps desperation, replacing that previous feeling of jubilation as the Steelers commence with preparation for a season loaded with trepidation (I feel like a boxing promoter!).

The past 12 months have been one long series of disappointments for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After riding into opening weekend with the highest of expectations, the team stumbled out of the gates, needing overtime to win its first game, then falling to Chicago and Cincinnati in the next two. Later in the season the Steelers would suffer a five-game losing streak – three of which embarrassingly came at the hands of Kansas City, Oakland, and Cleveland, who last season COMBINED for only 14 wins.

Players began attacking and criticizing each other and the phrase “Steelers Stink” was heard for the first time in many years around Pittsburgh. It became very clear that the Steelers organization was in trouble. When the curtain fell on the 2009 regular season the Steelers became only the 13th team in NFL history to fail in its attempt to reach the playoffs as reigning champions.

Off the field the Steelers had a fair share of issues as well, highlighted by the legal troubles of wide receiver Santonio Holmes and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

This was not the first time either player had been involved in off-field scandal. The result for the Steelers is to be without both offensive stars as the 2010 season commences.

Despite the fact that Holmes was a Super Bowl MVP, and was the team’s leading receiver, the Steelers traded him away to the New York Jets for nothing more than a fifth-round draft pick. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger will serve a six-game ban to kick off the new season as punishment for his indiscretions. Add to those issues the very impressive performances by the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals last season, and the Steelers begin to look like a franchise on the verge of self-destruction.

Now the Steelers must face the prospect of a new season with many more questions than answers.

Perhaps the largest question looming over the Steelers as camp opens is how to handle Ben Roethlisberger’s involvement in preparation for the upcoming season. Will he practice with the first team, or will the backups be spending most of their time lining up with the starting crew? Also (and perhaps most importantly), what if the Steelers find success behind a backup quarterback during the weeks that Roethlisberger is suspended? Should the team stick with what is working or go back to the guy getting paid more than $100M to play that position? Do not forget that the Steelers were actively soliciting trade offers for the former Pro Bowler around draft time. They have clearly been disappointed in Big Ben’s off-field antics, and could be looking for any excuse to relegate his status on the field.

If you could only attend one training camp all year long, Pittsburgh is the place to be. The Steelers are one of the league’s best franchises in recent history wins two out of the last five Super Bowls, but all signs currently point toward a continued collapse. Will Byron Leftwich and the return of Antwaan Randle El be enough to keep the Steelers competitive through the first half of the season, or should fans in Pittsburgh already start looking ahead to the 2011 season… when the franchise can truly start anew?

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The 2010 Biggest Pre-Draft Move Debate… Spring Cleaning in the Steel City

April 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

There have been some big moves in the weeks leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft.

Included within those moves are face lifts for two teams that have traded away the very people who for the last decade, in the San Diego Chargers (who released LaDanian Tomlinson) and the Philadelphia Eagles (who traded away Donovan McNabb).

In terms of blockbuster deals, no trade has been bigger than that of Brandon Marshall, who was sent to the Miami Dolphins after a season in Denver where his on-field success was unfortunately overshadowed by several issues that have somewhat diminished the perception of what this dangerous receiver can consistently do.

But with all of those transactions, where teams have put forth the off-season efforts they hope will improve their organization, the team facing the biggest changes to their team is doing so as a RE-active, rather than PRO-active, measure. The biggest pre-draft moves of the NFL 2010 season were the penalty-induced suspensions and transaction of Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger.

First comes the story of Santonio Holmes, who has been in legal trouble, it seems, since entering the league in 2006. He has admitted to having sold drugs prior to seriously pursuing football, and since 2006 has been hit with assault charges, domestic violence charges, drug charges, and is once again facing a lawsuit for allegedly throwing a glass at a woman in a bar.

And then there is Ben Roethlisberger, who recently was under investigation for the second time with regard to sexual assault allegations.

You know – Really CLASSY actions!

As a result of their respective misdeeds, both Holmes and Roethlisberger are facing suspensions for the first four to six weeks of the upcoming regular season. This presented a very big problem for the Steelers, because both Holmes and Roethlisberger were integral parts of the Pittsburgh offense.

Holmes, a former first-round draft pick (and the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII) was coming off of one of the best seasons in his career as a Wide Receiver. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger had been developing into one of the most successful quarterbacks in the game today. In fact, the Steelers saw fit to reward Roethlisberger’s success back in 2008 with an eight-year, $102M contract, making him one of the highest paid players in the entire league.

Despite that success from two of the Steelers’ most promising offensive stars, patience with the oft scandalized tandem has finally run out, prompting the team to retool their offense.

Two weeks ago, the Steelers dumped Santonio Holmes and all of his baggage in a trade with the New York Jets, where all they received in return was a fifth-round pick in this weekend’s draft. Clearly, Holmes’ stock had drastically plummeted in the eyes of Pittsburgh and its fans. To value a player with Holmes’ on-field credentials as only being worth a fifth-rounder speaks volumes with regard to their opinion of his character.

Following the announcement of Roethlisberger’s suspension, the Steelers began talks in trying to trade him away as well. To this point, they have not been able to find a suitable partner, but there is a long way to go before the season begins, and a lot of negotiation can take place in the meantime. Don’t forget, also, that even IF Roethlisberger remains on the team, he will not be available to suit up until week SEVEN. That is a lifetime when you consider that the NFL season is only 16 weeks long!

So much for the Steelers’ original plans.

The Rooney family has been very vocal in their displeasure of the situation that Holmes and Roethlisberger put them in, and has taken measures to demonstrate that there is no room within the Steelers organization for thoughtless and reckless behavior, no matter how successful those players may have been on the field. As a Cleveland native you won’t hear me say this often, but I must applaud the Pittsburgh Steelers for having taken such a strong stance in these matters!

The message that the Roger Goodell (now with the support of at least one well-respected owner) is sending is a simple one – being a part of the NFL is a privilege, and must be taken seriously. When a player puts their career at risk by participating in these foolish (and possibly criminal) activities, they put the whole organization at risk. These moves by the Steelers (which may not be over yet) have clearly made the most impact, not only in Pittsburgh, but to the entire NFL.

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The 2010 Biggest Pre-Draft Move Debate… Pre-Draft Story Drought

April 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

The NFL Draft kicked off yesterday and I could not have been more lukewarm about it. You have probably heard the expression “No news, is good news”, but that is not really the case for a football fan around the NFL Draft. There just was not that much to get excited about. Aside from, Brandon Marshall’s deal to the Dolphins and Donovan McNabb’s in-division trade to the Redskins, things have pretty much been a total yawnfest. The biggest story leading up to this NFL Draft was the lack of stories leading up to the NFL Draft.

Ben Roethlisberger did more than his fair share to try and stir up NFL storylines and prompt trade talk, but the deal never got done. Although Big Ben did not verbally demand a trade out of Pittsburgh, his actions sure did. After putting himself in compromising situation after situation, the Steelers’ QB made himself increasingly expendable, and when the news broke just days ago that he was going to be suspended for six games during the 2010 season, he really gave the Steelers a reason to let him go. There were plenty of teams who would have benefited from the on-field talents of Roethlisberger under center (and he is sure to keep the local legal team busy with defense cases), but only the Oakland Raiders emerged as serious suitors. It seemed like the Oakland Raiders were a logical match who would surely jump at the opportunity to acquire a quarterback with a Super Bowl winning pedigree, but the two sides could not come to an agreement. Maybe the Raiders thought they could get off cheaper trying to draft a quarterback or maybe they were just trying to protect the co-ed population in the greater Oakland area, but it seems that Big Ben will be back in Pittsburgh in 2010 after his suspension runs its course.

There was hope that things might pick up after Donovan McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins. Many thought that this was a sign of wilder wheeling and dealing to come, but again… nothing. There There was some minor speculation that Washington might sign free agent Terrell Owens, which is a deal I wish had gone down because it would have been supremely entertaining. Watching McNabb and TO team up again while both are trying to prove they are still elite competitors would have been either an unbelievable comeback story for the once dynamic duo, or a delicious train wreck of epic proportions. Either way the public would have gotten to enjoy the show, but are instead left wondering about what might have been.

Another Redskin, Albert Haynesworth, got the rumor mill going as well this off season, as trade talk emerged about a potential return to Tennessee for the former Titan. Despite cashing in on a huge payday last season signing with Washington, Haynesworth seemed to have no interest in adjusting to the Redskins’ defensive schemes. There was talk that he might make his way back to Tennessee in time to mix up the draft board for the two teams and potentially add some more drama to the draft. But like every other rumored move lately it did not happen. The big man may still rumble back in to the Music City, but he’ll do so after the kickoff of the NFL draft.

I really did not see this wave of inactivity coming. Usually the NFL is abuzz with pre-draft stories and big moves. Picks and players swapping teams set the tone for an entertaining draft, but this year it was all quiet on the football front leading up to draft day.

In the end, the draft itself proved to be far more exciting (with Cowboys trading up to get Dez Bryant and Tim Tebow being drafted above Jimmy Clausen) than any pre-draft story.

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The Morals in Sports Debate… Do the ‘RIGHT’ Thing and Enforce Morals

April 23, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless.

Does it seem that every time you turn on the TV these days, there is some type of moral issue going on in the world of sports? It sure does to us at TSD, which is one of the main reasons why we decided to have this debate. The debate centered on whether or not leagues should have a stricter moral conduct policy, if they even have one to begin with.

Bleacher Fan’s argument, aptly titled ‘Men Behaving Badly‘, focused on the wide variety of immorally wrong episodes that have taken place in recent memory. The three main points highlighted in the argument revolve around the fact that a) sports is a business, b) the athletes have a social responsibility to be role models, and c) that there is a matter of protection, and yes, you can interpret that last phrase however you so desire.

Babe Ruthless, on the other hand, admittedly had a tough argument to make. Nevertheless, some good points were raised and credit is owed to the Babe for that. While hardly anyone condones the scandalous activities done by today’s athletes, it is definitely important to note that these guys are human. As Babe pointed out, we must understand that while we may not have done some of the same things as today’s athletes, we have all done something we would not want the public to know about. And no, I’m not talking about the time when Sports Geek cheated off someone’s paper in his third grade spelling class.

Ultimately, this debate is quite simple – It is a matter of right versus wrong. As Bleacher Fan indicated, these players represent the team they play for. Tiger Woods is not an employee of the PGA Tour, but he is a representative of it. He is known as a golfer by the majority of us first and foremost, not as a spokesman for Nike (for example). It is the player’s responsibility to behave in a respectful manner because that image essentially is tied to the image of the respective league.

Obviously, athletes are entitled to live their lives as they see fit, but they must deal with the consequences, whatever they may be. The rest of us would have to deal with those same consequences if our actions were considered “immoral”. If you or I had been involved in the same type of situation that Ben Roethlisberger found himself in, how would our bosses look at it? Ask yourself that question and it will lead you to my verdict.

Every sports league needs to have some type of code of conduct to let their “employees” know that these types of shenanigans will not be tolerated.

Bleacher Fan is awarded the victory.

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The Morals in Sports Debate… Men Behaving Badly

April 22, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

Here we sit, on the heels of yet another star athlete scandal.

Between Dog fighting, sex parties on boats, domestic violence, rape charges, drugs, drinking and driving, infidelity, and fighting in bars (just to name a few), I find myself thoroughly repulsed by the misdeeds of the athletic elite within our society today. And if the disturbing frequency with which new reports and allegations are released serves as any indication of what is really going on in the private lives of these people, then I am both saddened and alarmed.

Far too often, athletes have made poor decisions (that usually victimize another human being) and it is time that somebody took a SERIOUS stance against this deplorable behavior. A strong, clear, and consistent message must be communicated.

The Business of Sports

The “business” of professional sports is one of image. In a world where visibility and exposure is king, millions of dollars can hang in the balance. If an athlete wants to make millions on the field, they must portray success. If they want to make even more money in endorsements, they must appeal to the public. Simply put – Image is EVERYTHING!

Every business in America, including professional sports organizations, strives to portray an image of being a positive “corporate citizen.” There are plenty of “good guys” in sports today, like Phil Mickelson, who spend much of their time and money in philanthropic endeavors. Those deeds are publicized because they look good for everyone involved – The charity benefits from exposure, the athlete benefits from positive press, and the league benefits through the support of these good deeds.

While those organizations prosper from the radiating glow of being associated with an act of good PR at the hands of one of their representatives, they must avoid the radiating stench of bad press. The last thing that any organization wants to do is to condone or ignore inappropriate and illegal behavior.

The need for POSITIVE corporate citizenship is magnified in the world of sports, though, because of the added social responsibility that athletes have as role models to the public.

Social Responsibility

I don’t care that Charles Barkley uttered his famous line – “I am not a role model.” It is not up to him to decide. The very real fact in today’s society is that athletes ARE viewed as role models, whether they SHOULD be or not. Thanks to marketing campaigns from corporations such as Nike, Gatorade, and Gillette, society is led to believe that they can (and should) aspire to live the same lives as athletes.

And who can blame the youth of America for falling prey to this marketing strategy? After all, what part of life as a superstar athlete does NOT appeal to you? You can date super models, make millions of dollars, be adored by tens of thousands, and possibly be immortalized as a legend, all for playing a game that many would pay to play.

Clearly, people in America (and around the world) aspire to be like these athletes. Most athletes fell in love with a sport because they themselves idolized an athlete during their younger days. Whether it was watching Magic on the court, Montana on the field, or Nicklaus on the links, every single one of them had the same thought… “Someday, I’m gonna be like HIM!”

Fans idolize athletes – it is as simple as that.

A Matter of Protection

Unfortunately, many athletes today do not possess qualities that would make them WORTHY of being a Role Model. As pointed out by ESPN.com writer Tim Keown, there are just some people (like Roethlisberger) who don’t deserve life on the pedestal. Because we don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing the Role Models of society, though, there must be some other way to help protect us all from social rejects who have no regard for anyone other than themselves.

Society must be protected from idiots with too much money and ego, but too little common sense. The leagues must be protected from being associated with these dregs of society, and must take measures to protect their investment into the development of these athletes. And realistically, these players must be protected from themselves, before they do serious and irreparable harm to themselves and others.

This is where a strictly defined and enforced Moral Conduct Policy comes into play.

Keep in mind that I am not proposing that we strip athletes of their freedoms as if they were already criminals. I understand that they are grown adults who deserve the right to act freely. However, because much of their own livelihoods (and the success of the greater organizations that they represent) is based solely upon image, the various sports organizations should take the steps necessary to formally identify those actions that are viewed as being detrimental, and should impose severe penalties in discouragement of those actions.

For example:

Good – Going out to a bar with a couple friends for a celebration

Bad – Going out to a bar with a loaded gun in your pocket while sexually forcing yourself on an unwilling person

This SHOULD be common sense, but that is clearly missing in some people. Because many of these athletes have PROVEN incapability for governing their own behavior, someone must govern it for them. There is far too much at stake today, both from a social and a financial standpoint, for this type of self-destructive behavior to be permitted unchecked. By defining specific actions as appropriate or inappropriate, the officials within each league can establish a platform by which they can correct this disturbing trend.

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The Morals in Sports Debate… Sympathy For The Infamous

April 22, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

 

Ben Roethlisberger has opened Pandora’s Box and he doesn’t even know it. No, I am not referring to the NFL quarterback attending the grand opening of a seedy strip club in a drunken blackout state. I am referring to the fact that Roethlisberger’s conduct has sparked a huge controversy that is larger than one might imagine. The allegations against Big Ben are so deplorable that he is being discussed in the same category as Pacman Jones and Michael Vick. In fact, the public backlash against the Steelers’ QB has actually drawn some of the attention off of Tiger Woods, which is saying a lot here lately. The controversy over Roethlisberger’s behavior has prompted many to question whether sports leagues should attempt to crackdown on player misconduct in their personal lives by enforcing moral regulations. This may come as a shock to those who know me, as I am generally seen as a person of high moral character, but I actually do not support this stance that leagues should be involved in regulating the morality of players’ off-field behaviors.

I want to make it clear that in no way do I support the infamous actions of players like Ben Roethlisberger, Tiger Woods, or Pacman Jones. I find the behavior that these stars are accused of reprehensible and hugely irresponsible. I do, however, think that they have a right to a personal life. I take issue with the notion that somehow fans, sports media, and league officials are in a position to pass judgment on stars for actions in their personal lives. Whatever happened to the philosophy of “judge not, lest ye be judged yourselves.” Some of you may be saying “Listen Babe Ruthless, I never did any of the stuff those guys did,” and perhaps you are right. But I am willing to bet there is some mistake in your personal life, large or small, that you would not want plastered on the cover of the tabloids, discussed over the airwaves, and streaming across the bottom line of ESPN. The only reason the public is aware or even cares about these players’ behavior is because they are famous. If Tiger Woods wasn’t Tiger Woods the golfer, but Eldrick Woods the certified public accountant, would you really care that he cheated on his wife? I am guessing not, and I do not think there are many people out there that would feel comfortable with the level of exposure that professional athletes’ personal lives endure.

Similarly, I doubt many people would want their compensation tied to their personal conduct like professional athletes. When professional athletes do something stupid in their private lives they may be fined, suspended, and/or lose sponsors, but when the average person makes a bad personal decision the consequences do not necessarily carry a financial impact. That is a double standard, my friends, and while I do not support their immoral behavior, I think athletes get the short end of the stick on this one. When the average person cheats on their wife the consequences may include losing one’s house, half their possessions, alimony, or child support, but they usually do not get suspended from work or lose their job because of it. Tiger Woods’ extramarital affairs caused him to lose millions in endorsement deals because of his highly publicized personal indiscretions. Athletes’ lives are scrutinized enough without their every action having to pass before a moral police that wields power over their playing time and wallets.

Athletes have every right to be act like jerks. It is practically constitutional. Citizens are entitled to lives free of excessive government entanglement, and their rights are enumerated in the Constitution. Freedoms are granted to the good and bad, the moral and immoral just the same. So long as an athlete’s behavior is neither illegal nor in violation of a league rule, then they should be free to engage in that action regardless of whether it is popular or “moral”. Attempting to micromanage someone’s legal personal behavior is not reasonable for a sports league to attempt, and it is certainly not in keeping with the principles of our democratic government. If we allow the NFL, NBA, and MLB to decide what’s right and wrong, moral or immoral, where does it end? Will they one day get to fine players for not showing hustle? Will they be empowered to dock players for not displaying enough heart? That is a slippery slope that I do not want to see sports go down.

In the end, if off-field conduct is not illegal or directly impacting a player’s on-field performance then it should not be regulated. One day people like Big Ben, and everyone for that matter, will have to answer to The Man Upstairs, and I don’t mean Roger Goodell. Until that time, let’s leave the judgment to the Big Guy because He is qualified and we are not. 

 

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