Editor’s Note: This column first appeared in The Daily Dispatch on Thursday, January 11th, 2007.
America is enamored over its sports.
Parents, more often times than not, push their kids into athletics so they can live out the glory that just didn’t come their way when they were younger.
It is very rare that a parent directs a child into a sport just because they know that youngster will one day dominate the sport; just as the late Earl Woods did when he allowed his son at age 2 to hit off the tee on the Mike Douglas Show or how Richard Williams predicted that his girls would be the ‘it’ in tennis.
So, it’s only natural that America would treat professional athletes as that lad who made it. How many times have you sat in front of the TV during a sporting event and after a play and said, ‘I would have…?’
But along side the ones who have paternal love for the athletes, are the ones who see professional athletes and say, ‘That should be me.’
These individuals are like your child’s bully at school, except older and a lot more dangerous. These individuals see athletes with their Bentleys and diamond encrusted necklaces and watches and just out of pure hatred, jealously or spite will do harm to another human being.
Which is why a tragedy such as Darrent Williams’ murder happens. Which is why Stephen Jackson fired shots outside a club. Which is why a great number of athletes carry firearms, to protect themselves from their bullies.
Professional athletes are under such a microscope by us, the fans, that athletes try to be as perfect as possible, for us, the fans, like the kid who plays quarterback in Pop Warner but doesn’t get any dinner if he completes less than 65 percent of his passes.
So it’s us, the fans, that must remember that professional athletes are humans too, just like us.
Because we, as fans, forgot that probably the greatest golfer ever to swing a club is human, no matter how machine-like he is on the links.
We, as fans, must remember that there are more to professional athletes than just the field of competition, that these athletes go beyond the playing field.
And if we truly love the athletes, when they do something great, we cheer.
When they have an off night, we encourage them, tell them to pick their heads up.
When they lose, we tell them ‘better luck next time.’ When they hurt and grieve, we sympathize with them.
Besides, we’re only human.