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UNF Spinnaker

Athletes aren’t just your entertainment puppet

By: Josh Brannock, Sports Editor


Athletes are a rare breed. They are put on display in front of millions of people and are expected to perform at a nearly superhuman level, but if they screw up, it’s all fair game when it comes to criticism.


The New York Giants beat the San Francisco 49ers in overtime Jan. 22, thanks in large part to two fumbles from 49ers return man Kyle Williams. According to Williams’ father, Kenny Williams, who just so happens to be the general manager of the Chicago White Sox, Kyle received death threats after the game via social media sites, mainly Twitter.


It’s one thing to blame a loss on a player, but it’s another matter to take it so personally that you would actually tell another human being that you’re going to kill him or that he should kill himself. The NFL has come out and said every threat is being taken seriously.


Although Williams’ has said there have been more people supporting him after the loss than posting threats, it still doesn’t take away the fact that people said it. Most likely, the majority of these people don’t want him to die and don’t actually plan on harming him, but still, the words were said, and the hate was thrown on Williams.


Now, I won’t lie and say I’ve never been aggravated at a player or blamed him for a loss, but I have never said to him, on a public forum, that I want him to die. It honestly reminds me of Ace Ventura, when Ray Finkle wanted Dan Marino to die because he didn’t hold the ball correctly on a field goal. Finkle missed the field goal that would’ve won them the fictional Super Bowl and was blamed for the loss. Laces out Dan, laces out!


In America, athletes are now either seen as greedy assholes who have god-given talents and want as much money as they can suck out of a person or jerks who use their fame to get away with things that the normal person wouldn’t – see Tiger Woods. Or, they’re actually one of a very few genuine sports personalities – Tim Tebow is the best example I can think of now.


Very rarely is there ever that happy medium in sports coverage of a guy who stays out of the public view and yet is a good guy on and off the field. There is an annual survey of players in the NFL that asks “Who is the dirtiest player in the league?” I’ve never seen a survey, and one might exist, that asks “Who’s the best “good guy” in the league?” or “Who would you love to be a teammate with?”


If someone with no prior knowledge of a sport were to watch a game, they would see it in a different eye than the typical sports fan. Athletes are expected to perform at a high level day in and day out, put their bodies on the line for our entertainment, and when they fail, they are expected to take every single criticism like a man and come back the next game like nothing happened.


The sports world treats athletes like a piece of gum. When we first bite into it, it’s full of flavor, but eventually it starts to lose its pizazz, and when it runs out of flavor, we throw it away and search for a new piece.


Now put yourself into the shoes of an athlete. What if a group of people went to you at work or in class and started booing you for every mistake? What if you forgot to do something and started getting death threats from crazed people? I understand athletes are different. They play under the spotlights, they’re getting paid millions – which actually isn’t true for most athletes – they chose to be in the sport, and you’re not holding a gun to their head saying they have to continue playing. But for all of these players, this is their life. They don’t have much other than sports.


Now you can read about these kinds of things from any source, but rarley does a sports journalist ever dive into the topic of college student-athletes.


Not too long ago, basketball players were skipping college completely and going straight from high school to the pros. When the NBA instituted a rule that said a player had to be at least one year removed from his final year of high school before entering the draft, people were actually upset by this.


It’s a sad day when we forget the athletes who play for colleges are students first and athletes second. Fans don’t care if the star quarterback or point guard failed a test earlier in the week. As long as he wins for them, they’re happy.


Fans, analysts and agents actually think it’s a bad idea to stay in school instead of leaving early for a draft. If someone were to stay in college in order to get their degree, the public views it as a mistake because their draft stock will fall or they will miss out on an opportunity to make millions.


I used to be one of those people until I started to look into the subject more. When I hear a player say that he is going to stay in school for this senior year or until he gets the degree, I applaud him for choosing to risk losing money and be called an idiot for not going into the draft so that he can gain an education.


Seriously, America has chosen sports and entertainment over education, which actually isn’t surprising because I’m pretty sure there are plenty of things people would choose over education. Too often, we hear about an athlete who is bankrupt just a few years after retiring, and sometimes that is because of personal problems such as gambling, but sometimes it’s because the person didn’t understand how to save money in a smart way. Because he left school early, he doesn’t have a degree and can’t get a job other than becoming an analyst for the 11 p.m. ESPN2 show that six to ten people watch daily.


So I feel as though sports fans need to realize, yes athletes are entertaining us and they know what they are getting into, but the athletes who we see put their bodies on the line aren’t just our entertainment slaves, they are people too.


Email Josh at [email protected]
Follow @spinnakersports

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