September 30, 2015

LEWIS | Athletes Are People, Too

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There is a rumor going on around the Daily Sun that I don’t show my face around the office as much as I probably should. And this is absolutely true. I have missed like ten billion meetings I was supposed to be at. But I did happen to go one Sun sports meeting this past week (to which my fellow editors exclaimed, “Shane’s here?!”) and I learned that I am allowed to use expletives in my column. This has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m writing about today, but fuck it.
Now back to sports. This past Friday, Pete Rose pled his case to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred that he deserves to be reinstated back into the league. Upon hearing the news, one of my friends remarked to me, “I don’t know how anybody can be a fan of Pete Rose; the dude’s a cheater.”

I thought about this for a second, and I really didn’t think that seemed fair. I mean sure the guy bet on baseball games, and maybe his character is a little questionable. But as a baseball player, Pete Rose was as good a hitter as there ever was. He was a winner, and he made a lot of people in Cincinnati happy. Isn’t that all that should be asked of him? At the end of the day Pete Rose was a baseball player, not a priest. Should we really not “be a fan” of him based on things he did outside the baseball diamond?

This brings back the old Charles Barkley “Professional Athletes should not be role models” debate. Should they or not? Well to some extent, no, I don’t think that athletes should be held accountable as role models. Athletes are paid to entertain, not to be some sort of moral compass to whom we should compare ourselves.

As anybody who’s close to me knows, I am a huge fan of Kanye West. The dude is a musical genius, and if you don’t think My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the greatest album of all time, then you are sadly mistaken. Do I realize that Kanye West is a huge asshole? Of course I do. But I don’t look to Kanye West for advice on how to be a better human being. I look to Kanye West for top-notch production and lyrical insights to his amazing sex-life with one of the hottest woman on the planet ( Bound 2 anybody?). He is a rapper, and he is amazing at what he does. That is all I can ask of him.

So even though athletes like Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant are huge douchebags off the field, and have made some questionable life decisions as well, I don’t think it’s fair to put them on some moral pedestal. They are the world’s greatest at what they do, and they should be be looked upon as athletes, not as role models.

Now if you are an athlete striving to be a professional in your given sport, of course it’s fair to look at professional athletes as role models. If that is your ultimate goal, then professional athletes are obviously the best example to follow.

Another thing that bothers me is that many people hold athletes accountable to some sort of extra-moral standard. When a professional athlete gets caught smoking pot, suddenly it’s the end of the world. But I mean c’mon, professional athletes are people just like the rest of us. Who at Cornell doesn’t smoke pot? Is everybody at Cornell a scumbag because they choose to inhale a little reefer? No, of course not. We need to stop holding athletes accountable to things that we would never hold our friends accountable for.

Everybody makes mistakes, and athletes fall under the same category. I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss someone based on a couple of bad decisions they’ve made. I’ve done tons of dumb things and my life, and I’m glad I have people that look past my faults.

At the end of the day, athletes are paid to play sports. They are not paid to be role models. But sometimes it’s hard not to make that emotional connection with your favorite athlete and hold them accountable for things outside the realm of sports. This is natural. Just remember, professional athletes are people too, and they’d probably appreciate it if you didn’t dismiss them because of a few dumb mistakes they made.