Like all the folks on Fanation I'm a big fan of sports. I also consider myself a good sport. I enjoy the give and take between fans of different teams. I can dish it out when my team is winning and have wounded many a rival with my quick wit and sharp tongue. In turn, I can take the licks that come my way when they don't. As a diehard Celtics fan I have suffered the slings and arrows fired by others who have enjoyed watching the once proud and mighty franchise wallow in mediocrity for past 20 years.
But thats what sports fans do. They beat their chests in support of their team in victory and defend them against charges of incompetence and ineptitude when they are stinking up the joint. It's the price paid for the love of the game. It's supposed to be, and for the most part is, good natured ribbing that is the heart of a good rivalry. I take it as such most of the time. It's the nature of the banter that flows back and forth between fans who support the teams they love and defend their honor when it's challenged.
I have no problem when the fans express their displeasure at a player when it relates to his performance on the field or on the court. It's our right to vent, taunt, boo and hiss when a player doesn't live up to our expectations. We all like to play monday-morning QB when it comes to praising or condeming a coachs decisions or strategy. It's our right as fans and supporters... we who are the ones that ultimately pay their salaries... to take them to task when we aren't happy with their performance.
But there are times when we cross the line and the talk turns ugly. Instead of critizing the player on the professional level, we start to attack the individual on a personal one. And any fan that comes to that persons defense becomes a target as well.
A recent T&R post concerning Coach Andy Reid hit home for me and made me realize how easy we can go from being critical and insightful as fans to cruel and hurtful as people. The post encourged us to publicly voice our opinion on a matter that, by all measures, is one that is very personal. Indeed, if it was our problem, we wouldn't want the public to even know at all, let alone be discussing it.
It dealt with the problems of Coach Reids sons and their recent drug arrests. The story has appeared in the media before and some have expressed the opinion that, because of the problems he is experiencing in his personal life, a serious, painful and private family matter, he should, for reasons I still can't connect, quit his job as head coach.
The first comment posted by a user in response, while not necessarily derogatory, basically called Reid to task for being, at least in the users eyes, a lousy parent. The implication was that perhaps Reid wasn't doing all he could for his son and that he should do more than he has already. Despite the fact that Reid has been working to get help and has seen his sons go in and out of rehab programs with little success over a period of 4 years.
The user felt Reid owed his sons more than he has already given. He should quit his job. The user accused Reid of caring more for his "children on the field" than for his own kids. Kids that at age 24 are actually men. He should stop putting his team ahead of his family.
It was as though the user felt that he knew enough about Coach Reid from seeing him coach and reading the sports pages that he was qualified to pass judgement on Reid as a father as well as a coach; Never stopping to consider how painful and thoughtless his remarks may be to Reid as a man... as a father.
I was pained by the comments on a personal level because the user could have been talking about me.
I've been watching my own son battle the same problems for 10 years. I like to think I have parented him to the best of my ability. He has fought every attempt to help get him straightened out and goes right back to his habits at the first possible chance.
I have lost jobs and my home and suffered years of pain and sorrow watching him destroy himself and blame the world. He has threatened my life and that of his sister and mother when we tried to intervene.
I would give everything I have if I could help my son get his life straight. But I can't give my life, I have a daughter who needs me too. At this point it has become more important for me to protect our lives more than his. And for Coach Reid the situation is the same
Sacrificing his life and livelihood would be the worst thing that Reid could do for himself and the rest of his family. At 24 his sons aren't children... they are men who must take responsibility for their own lives.
To suggest that his sons problems are Reids fault for not parenting to the best of his ability is a cruel and thoughtless accusation. Particularly when it's directed at a guy you don't even know. To attack him in the middle of the crises, at a time when his own sense of self-esteem and worth are the most vulnerable, is in no way helpful and certainly hurtful.
While the most recent example, it isn't the first time I've seen the line crossed by fans who feel compelled to condemn a player as a person based on what they read in the media. Heaping insult on invective and vilifying the very moral fiber of the mans soul based on a story in the paper or a piece on the local sports news.
The truth is virtually none of those posting their opinions know anything about them as people. They've never met them, but that doesn't stop them from feeling slighted on some personal level by a guy they only know from watching TV.
The shooting death of Sean Taylor revealed the depths that some "fans" will go to deride a guy who they know nothing about. Some exhibited a malicious, almost vengeful glee at the news of his death. Equating the act of spitting at another individual during a game as a reason to justify his death. To make his murder seem like his just desserts.
Never thinking about the family and friends who have to endure the cruel ranting while being unable to defend the person they loved from the hate, they speculated on every possible negative aspect of his life style. They berated his character as though he had done something to them on a deeply personal level; Forgetting how much their insults added to the injury suffered by those who loved him, not to mention his new daughter. A daughter who will only learn about her father through the legacy of these comments.
There are times when a player opens up his personal life to public scrutiny and that is when the public can righfully voice their opinion of them as a person.
Michael Vick had a sorry and twisted definition of entertainment. He engaged in illegal activities and lied to everybody. All acts that are good evidence on which to form an opinion of him as a person on a lot of levels. But he doesn't sink to the level of a Ted Bundy or your average serial rapist and the calls for his execution were out of line with his crimes... for some.
Tom Brady fathered a child out of wedlock. A serious moral breach for a lot of people. It's fair game for someone to see him as less than a moral person. But to call his child a "****" or the "spawn of satan" is taking things too far.
A guy has a bad day on the field, makes a play that costs his team the victory and he's going to hear about it. But how does that equate to vilifying a person on a personal level? The Dolphins are a team that is losing... but that doesn't make the players and the staff "losers". Everytime I hear people declare that a player is somehow not playing as well as he should or trying as hard as he can I have to shake my head in amusement.
Every player on every team is a guy who has committed his life to playing and exceeding at the sport he plays. We don't like it when they lose. Believe me... they like it even less. It is his pride, passion and profession. We invest the price of a ticket to watch them play. Players invest their entire lives to get the chance to play for us. They may not always win but none of them are losers. It bothers a player when he reads about his lousy performance on the field. But he expects that... it comes with the job.
But when he goes home to his family, he has the right to expect the privacy of his personal and family life to be respected. How he plays football or baseball is a matter for public discourse. How he raises his children, who his friends are, who he dates or what his religion is none of our business. When you start thinking it is, you cross the line between fan and fanatic. You are not a watcher... you are an intruder.
When we sieze on the superficial "facts" written in a story by some sports "Reporter" and take them to be gospel we start losing the persective of observer and take on the role of accuser. When, based on a headline, we feel it's ok to label a guy as a thug or insult a mans role as a parent or a friend, then we start to confuse knowledge with knowing.
Andy Reids kids do drugs and get in trouble? Well it's because Reid doesn't care or is a lousy father. Sean Taylor had friends from the "hood"? He deserves what he got. We think we know them as people and we have a right to express our opinion about them, good or bad, right or wrong .
We might believe the things we say are true but really... the truth is we don't know them at all.
It's ok to take your sports seriously, but I think it's wrong to take sports personally. It's a game. On the field, for the length of the game, they are heros and villians. They are winners or losers. When its over the players go home to their families and friends and become what they are off the field. They are Fathers and husbands. Brothers and sons. People just like you and me.
Reading the comments directed at Reid made me realize that there is a point where we should keep our opinions to ourselves. I'm sure if you called Reid every name in the book when it comes to his abilities as a coach he would smile and not lose a minutes sleep over it. But accuse him of being a poor parent or a man who doesn't care for his family and his response would be far different. And no matter how he reacts... with anger or outrage, there would be a sliver of pain added to the pain he is already dealing with beneath it all.
I'm going to make more of an effort to avoid passing judgement on players as people in my posts. It would be nice if more people would do the same. It's what I think but that's just my opinion. I'm not foolish enough to think that my opinions here are going to change anything. It won't make people change the way they think or what they say... but I hope it will at least make them think a little more about what they say.
I enjoy watching sports. I enjoy watching people who play sports professionally.
I know them as players... but I have no idea of what they are like as people.
I enjoy watching people play sports professionally
I don't enjoy making sport of people personally.
Good sports don't... and if you do, a good sport you aren't.