It’s been a year to regret for famous sports figures. From Tiger Woods’ infidelity to Gilbert Arenas’ immaturity, billionaire ballers have been the top targets for open season public fire.
The criticism hasn’t been unwarranted however. Plaxico Burress shot his own self into a two-year prison term and Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to understand a 200 page-plus playbook takes a backseat to his apparent inability to comprehend the single word “no.” Drugs in every sport –whether it’s performance enhancers or social stimulators – continue to revolve around the sporting world and we’ll soon find out why former boxing champion Edwin Valero recently hung himself while sitting in jail on charges of murdering his wife. And did I mention Serena Williams has a foul mouth?
The life of a professional athlete is one that’s most admired and one that’s most scrutinized. We as fans often hold entertainers to a different degree of human righteousness, forgetting that they often moonlight as regular patrons outside of the boxed televisions we watch them on or the open arenas we cheer them in. So quick to hit the message boards we are to verbally annihilate them whenever they slip up but what makes a sports icon so different from a blue collar worker besides a few extra zeroes in the bank account?
Is the ability to knock down a contested three pointer that much difference than the ability to operate a Metro bus? Sure, one’s more entertaining than the other but which one is more important? Which one is a protestor more likely to lobby against in the face of infidelity or dog fighting charges? The professional that holds your life in their hands for a handful of minutes or the one that holds your attention for a few hours?
Would congress hold the same hearings over performance enhancing steroids to better operate busses as they do for operating baseball bats? Probably not. Maybe we just get a kick out of seeing someone who financially has everything we’ve ever asked for fall prey to the trappings of everyday life. I’ve seen known offenders without a leg to stand on poke and pun against higher salaried crime committers just because they assume money equals brilliance.
And that seems to be the general understanding; the more money you earn, the smarter your decisions must be, the smarter you must be and the straight and narrow you must walk. But just how ridiculous does that sound? Exhibit A makes $20 million a year while Exhibit B makes $20,000 annually. Exhibit A must go through life unscathed while it’s understandable for Exhibit B to incur mistakes based upon their opposing incomes?
Actually, the reverse reigns true for most because money still rules everything and the least you make of it, the cleaner your criminal record better be. If you can score, skate, run, jump and box in this world you’re going to be granted a different leisure from a person who can’t. It’s just that simple. But why do we place athletes on a superhuman pedestal for their ultra-athletic ability then ripped them down from it when we find out they’re only morally human?
Fans don’t gravitate towards athletes based upon their views on capitalism or their debt consolidation tactics but as the world turns the question remains. Will we continue to crucify athletes based upon the idea that we’re ethically better than them or the fact that they’re financially better than us? Jealousy and envy love company.
What message did the Pittsburgh Steelers send by booting a highly-troubled player while retaining another? Inquiring minds would like to know. You hold onto a guy coming off back to back offseasons of sexual allegations but trade a guy who’s coming off back to back seasons of drug charges? See the difference? Allegations and drugs often go together but are nowhere near related.
The Steelers front office should be prepared to be slapped with several labels ranging from hypocritical to racist over the next few weeks but a deeper look into things reveals that justice was served in Pittsburgh.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has committed several idiotic college freshmen-like mistakes during his tenure in Steeltown from sleeping with college freshmen to drinking alongside them. His internal bout over wearing a helmet the day he flew into a windshield from his motorcycle was a sigh of relief away from being one of the greatest tragedies in sports history. And his often-leaked online photo collection of drunken escapades depicts an immature leader not yet professionally equipped to handle the floodings of NFL success.
But while Roethlisberger has turned himself into a village idiot, ex-teammate Santonio Holmes has turned himself into a habitual troublemaker. His trade to the New York Jets after word broke that he violated the league’s substance abuse policy (a violation that will suspend Holmes for four games next season) wasn’t a racist reaction or a means of scapegoating the former Super Bowl MVP but notice you can’t smoke weed, physically assault women and journey in and out of courtrooms and expect to continue a career for the Steelers.
For all of Roethlisberger’s drawbacks, he’s never broken the law or been arrested as a member of the Steelers and his two cases of sexual allegations have resulted in a pair of circumstances involving inconsistent stories from his accusers. While Holmes has dodged jail time in place of slaps on the wrist, his March Twitter postings of telling a fan to “kill urself” and it’s “time to wake n bake” on the back of his March 7 assault allegation over striking a woman with a glass at a Florida nightclub punched his ticket out of town.
For those unaware, as defined by UrbanDictionary.com, the term “wake n bake” means to get out of bed in the morning and smoke pot. While catchy, posting that on your public Twitter page goes two rights and a left beyond stupid. How do you get your name placed in the news over assaulting a woman (for the second time in his career, he assaulted his child’s mother in 2006) then less than a week later post you’re about to “wake n bake” on your Twitter page? After being suspended for a game in 2008 when a traffic stop turned up three marijuana joints in his truck, you would think Holmes would’ve been straying away from his Cheech & Chong impersonations but alas, common sense isn’t common in everyone.
The Steelers are a patient franchise but drug toleration is something they don’t’ deal with for long. Talented tight end Eric Greene’s run with the team was highlighted by his spectacular play and marred by a cocaine habit that forced the team to release him after the 1994 season. Running back Byron “Bam” Morris was released in 1996 after a police stop turned up four kilograms of marijuana and one gram of cocaine and Holmes’ boot continues along the line of Pittsburgh’s ‘no drugs on your mind’ rule.
As long as there’s money, there will forever be sex, drugs and bad behavior in professional sports. Only one of the aforementioned is illegal and apparently only two of the aforementioned are allowed in Pittsburgh.
Cinderella teams typically don’t make it the NCAA tournament final, let alone win it. Fourth-seeded Arizona’s 1997 win is the last school seeded beyond third to lay claim to a championship over the past 20 years. So when the Butler Bulldogs face the Duke Blue Devils in the title game on April 5, the fifth-seeded Bulldogs will be aiming for the unlikely.
Although only four slots separate the top-seeded Blue Devils and Bulldogs, the classic David vs. Goliath label will be in full effect. Duke has been the model of consistency over the past two decades as one of the most recognizable programs of any collegiate sport. Led by legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke will be attempting to take home the school’s fourth championship since 1991, all under Krzyzewski’s guidance. Butler however, doesn’t possess quite as much notoriety.
Most fans couldn’t identify Butler’s location on a map if asked twice but when the crowd floods into Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium for the title game, it will be no question where Butler is from. The Bulldogs campus is just under six miles away from the site of the Final Four and its Indianapolis ties have helped label Butler as the new “Hoosiers” after the 1986 film that saw a small-town Indiana high school win the state championship.
The only difference between the two teams is that this year’s version will be playing for a national championship instead of a local one. The Bulldogs may have to rethink their small school battle cry. Butler’s win over Michigan State in the semifinals extended their win streak to 25 games, the longest in the country. Add that to their triumphs over Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State and Butler has now become one of the most popular schools in the country. A fact that even Krzyzewski has acknowledged.
“I think they’re one of the best teams in the country,” Krzyzewski told ESPN after Duke’s semifinal win over West Virginia on April 3. “I think Cinderella would be if somebody had eight, nine losses and pulled some upsets, stuff like that. I think they’ve won 25 in a row. They’ve beaten Syracuse and Kansas State and Michigan State tonight. I don’t really consider them Cinderella.”
Krzyzewski may have a point. Butler’s historic march to the Final Four has put them in position as the favorites. With the nation’s longest winning streak on the line and an arena that will most likely be filled with Bulldog supporters, it’s the Blue Devils that could be feeling like Cinderellas on championship night.