In 2010 I stole $50,000 from an account I manage at work. I almost went to jail when I got caught but I was able to get off with a warning because I won my office Fantasy Football League championship.
I’m kidding of course, but there’s a part of you that doesn’t find that all that difficult to believe. Championship’s erase crimes. It’s true.
Remember when Ray Lewis was in an orange jumpsuit and chains? Of course you don’t. Know why? Because a week later he won the Superbowl. He was doing commercials shortly thereafter and is routinely referred to with words such as “leader” and “passion”. This man, if memory serves, obstructed a murder investigation and no one remembers. Championships erase crimes.
Remember when Kobe allegedly raped that woman in Colorado? You did until he went to three straight NBA Finals and won 2 of them. There was a time when Nike wouldn’t put the word “Kobe” on anything. After the Lakers beat Boston in seven they named an entire system after him. Kobe’s getting old though, he better stay out of trouble.
Why am I talking about these things? Because I am noticing a major negative trend in our sports subculture. We are fascinated by scandal and the only thing we love more than building athletes up is tearing them down.
Jeremy Lin was a phenom…until he wasn’t. Tebow was ruling Denver…until he wasn’t. As big of a circus as Jets camp is going to be, we can’t wait to watch it.
We are fast becoming (and may well already be) a society that rewards achievement and sensationalizes foolishness. And we pick and choose our moments in this completely randomly.
Right now we all hate Dwight Howard. His trade deadline bafoonery actually let LeBron off the hook for “The Decision”. He followed that gem up with asking management to fire Stan Van Gundy – but didn’t think that the Magic brass might actually tell on him. Now he looks like a waffling Prima Dona. Can’t be that without championships. Isn’t it amazing that we completely overlook the fact that Magic Johnson did the same thing? Magic ran Paul Westhead out of LA, but because he had already won titles it is a blip on the history books.
Gregg Williams is being demonized for the bounty stuff happening in New Orleans – and he should be. The behavior is despicable. But this culture of violence was created by the NFL. Them punishing Gregg Williams is the equivalent of Batman punishing Robin for fighting crime too well. It’s like they’re saying, “Be violent, but not so violent that we get sued”. Fact is an NFL player could flat out stab someone on the field – as long as he wins a title he’ll do no time, and we will keep right on watching.
Sean Payton is appealing his suspension, playing bongos with Jimmy Buffett and is likely to do some TV during his time away. If I had a bounty system on my job I would go to jail. The fact that this man feels he is justified to appeal is both deplorable as well as accurate. He should be suspended – but only if the NFL also suspends itself first. Don’t teach me to be an assassin and then get mad when bodies start dropping.
This isn’t an indictment on…well…anything. It’s just an observation. I have no intentions of looking away any more than you do. We love sports and entertainment and we love affirming ourselves by putting others down (as it pleases us) as well as living vicariously through the achievements that few can ever reach. The sports subculture gives us all of that.
We hated steroids in baseball until McGuire and Sosa start chasing the home run record. Then we loved it. But then we hated it once congress got involved. That’s when we affirmed ourselves by saying how awful they were for cheating. Unless they had won titles – which would have absolved them from the crime. Nothing affirms us more than when the fallable human beings we place on pedalstal’s win championships.
Mike Vick will do a commercial for Alpo with 12 dogs the day after he wins a title in Philly. Bank on it.
Derrick Rose is already beloved because he is the rare mix of humility and talent. If he wins a title then we’ll begin looking for reasons to hate him. Right after we put his statue next to Jordan’s.
Speaking of Jordan – he is the worst basketball executive (quite possibly) in the history of the league. I wouldn’t let Jordan own my fantasy team. He drafted Kwame Brown #1 overall. But he won 6 titles and is the greatest player ever. He also makes nice sneakers and has a hot fiancé. All is forgiven.
If Peyton Manning wins another Superbowl we might all line up and take turns giving John Elway lap dances. If he doesn’t we’ll destroy Peyton and talk about how Eli is somehow better than a 4-time MVP.
Then there’s Donovan McNabb. McNabb is universally hated because he never won a title but got so close. He’s too uppity to have any street cred, but didn’t win enough for anyone that usually embraces uppity people to like. He’s a poor Man’s Stringer Bell in season 3 of “The Wire”. Not hard enough for “this in here”,and maybe “not smart enough for them out there”.
If McNabb had won in 2004 he’d be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Now he’s bickering with Shanny on ESPN’s First Take about a team that benched him for Rex Grossman. Is McNabb a bad guy? Nah. He’s soft, but that’s not a crime. His only crime is that he didn’t win – and the only thing that can fix not winning…is winning.
It’s like R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet”. We love it…and we’re ashamed that we do. l am as much to blame for this is everyone else. The slippery slope of moral decline within our sports subculture is something we all agree is terrible – but none of us is going to be the first to look away.
We might miss something if I do.