Mitchell: Professional Sports- Making You Even More You.
Professional athlete. Think about that term. They manufacture nothing, they service nothing, they produce nothing. There job is to be marveled at. Those with the genetic predisposition and/or work ethic to make them able to perform physical feats that most people cannot have been put into a position whereby they can exploit that talent for sometimes immense financial gain. Because we as a culture have ascribed significant value to being entertained, there is a select group of people who can succeed in the world by virtue of being physically dominant at a recreational activity. Whether or not that is a good thing or not, is not the subject here. I don’t begrudge anyone for making their living at what they are good at.
Some of the things that allow for success in the arena of sport are the same things that open the doors for some athletes to make decisions to do things that seem inexplicable to those of us watching from the couch. They also open the doors for some athletes to make decisions to do wonderful things.
Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd recently opined in an interview on WBZ Newsradio that he was under the influence of cocaine for about 2/3 of his outings in the Major Leagues. Not that anyone would be shocked to hear that a baseball player in the 80’s partook of the nose candy, but to hear Boyd talk about how prevalent drug use was during his time in MLB clubhouses may help people understand the culture that sees athletes do things that are against the rules and law without much concern for the consequences.Boyd said, “I wasn’t doing anything that hundreds of ballplayers weren’t doing at the time, because that’s how I learned it.”
Professional Athletes are generally young, have immense self-confidence, and have been training in the culture of locker rooms for most of their lives. Often they have been held in higher esteem by their peers and communities than other people they know. When a person has been told since high school that they are better than the rest, it is easy to fall into a self-image of superiority and invulnerability. Most teenagers and young adults have this to begin with, but coupled with the societal view of pro athletes, those who are inclined to buy into their own press are likely to foster those views and make decisions under the impression that they can handle whatever they do, and that if it’s against the rules, they won’t get caught, and even if they do, there won’t be ramifications. These personality types are not limited to athletes of course; they exist everywhere, but in sports, this is cultivated by agents, entourages, fans and media. The money and fame that accompany being a professional athlete opens virtually any door.
While some athletes see success, money and fame as a reason to indulge their every desire, others see it as a responsibility and a means to contribute to the betterment of others. The drive to succeed on the athletic field takes conviction, dedication and often a sense of accountability. When an athlete sees himself as a part of a community, rather than above it, these traits can produce great things.
When it comes to success, fame and money Albert Pujols is near the top of the list. He could do just about anything he wants, but his values have led him to donate time money and effort for various charities here and in the Dominican Republic. Curtis Granderson is renowned for his dedication to the community. Justin Masterson was named a Roberto Clemente Award finalist for his charity and community work after making multiple trips to the Dominican Republic to help the impoverished.
Most of the professional athletes I’ve known are regular people with an irregular talent. Most of them are basically good people. I’ve seen how the trappings of being a professional athlete can change how a person behaves, but generally, people who grew up with strong moral fiber and values of decency aren’t likely to become drug users or social deviants just because they become rich and famous. Oil Can Boyd’s drug use is not a result of him being a Major League Baseball player, nor are Justin Masterson’s community efforts. They are only magnified by their high-profile spot in our society. Unfortunately, the spotlight shines more often on the negative things. Probably because those who do good things for others usually aren’t doing it for the publicity.