the intersection of sports and society.

sports has always been an outlet for me. i remember as a kid, playing sports was that one escape, whether it was playing basketball or baseball with my neighbors or trading cards with my friends.

i loved the element that sports brought into my life. the aspect of teamwork, the hard work, the dedication the elite athletes have toward their craft – all of this was inspiring to me. i always thought of sports as the one area of my life that couldn’t get messed with by “real life”.

and now…

we have donald sterling.

the ncaa.

social media.

tim tebow

johnny manziel.

it doesn’t really seem like it’s really about the game anymore. it seems like it is all about the money, the fame, how to get as many “likes” and “follows”.

sports has long played a huge role in society, of course. these days, its role is even more important

 jackie robinson, muhammad ali, jesse owens, joe louis.

these names are synonymous with sports and society. you cannot really think of one without how they spurred social change, or maybe simply social outrage in some cases. but now, it seems that what is important is not necessarily standing up for social change, but standing up for social media. it’s not about what good sports does for society anymore. the way issues are portrayed these days is embarrassing. what amounts to an issue – what is considered news – is even more embarrassing.

tim tebow prayed to jesus and that was considered controversial. why? who cares?

johnny manziel loves to party. so? why do we care so much?

it’s not just about how disgraceful it is that the dallas cowboys still call themselves ‘america’s team’ or that no one truly still likes the new york yankees (even though, as a detroit tigers fan, i still respect the yankees, 27 championships is… well… 27 championships).

it’s more than that.

we have always longed for our best athletes to take more of a social standing in our communities. we begged for michael jordan to make statements and take a stance on issues. i suppose he was right when he said “republicans buy shoes too”, but is it always about the shoes? probably today he would say something like “republicans have twitter too”. 

there is still more that can be done. i respect lebron james for organizing the miami heat’s stance for trayvon martin and again lebron and chris paul for speaking so strongly against donald sterling. the intersection between sports and society is as volatile as it has ever been. with the rise of social media and the access fans have to their favorite athletes, these stars have a much more important role in society than ever before.

the notion that athletes are just sports stars and should not be involved in society is silly.

i threw out donald sterling’s name (i’d like to just throw him out entirely). i don’t really have anything to add that hasn’t been said already. i’m just curious why it took a billionaire saying a mean thing about another wealthy person for anyone to notice what a deplorable man he is. because of his role in sports, there was an opportunity to expose him years ago. i suppose the articles that have been written about him over the years about his horrendous treatment of the impoverished were not enough. who cares about the poor right? it’s not so much of a race issue as it is a issue of classes.

rich vs. poor.

as long as we aren’t poor then as a society, i guess it doesn’t matter. insult a rich black man? an american icon? then we have a problem, don’t we?

sports and society will always be intertwined of course. i hope that we don’t lose sight of the importance that it plays.

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DIVAS

DIVA.

it is quickly becoming how we the fan defines today’s sports superstar.

prima donna. me first. what have you done for me? you want me to write my name on a piece of paper? not unless you give me money.

clearly not everyone (or anyone) is a fan of lebron james these days. his “decision” to put himself in the public eye made a spectacle of reality television, and that is hard to do considering the degenerate nature of reality television in our country. but can we blame him?  DIVA? yes. lebron qualifies. but the reason he can be a diva is because he can get paid to be a diva. chris bosh is allowed to parade himself around nba cities as a free agent like a lapdog after his master because, well, he can. espn takes heat for a lot of issues, and i personally have a love/hate relationship with “the world wide leader’ which i’m sure i will explore here at some point, but the network only airs what the public wants to see.

the question i have is: why? we hated that lebron turned his “decision” into a national-slap-you-in-the-face to the city of cleveland and all cavalier fans, but why? why did we let him? i hated the idea from the start, but i knew i’d watch the circus-like show anyway. why do we give them that much power?

ochocinco drives the regular football fan crazy. i would guess that most fans do not really care for him. but who turned chad johnson into chad ochocinco? did chad johnson? no. we did. chad johnson became chad ochocinco because he knew we cared enough to like it. or hate it. either way we cared and he knew it. but why do we care?

when i sat and watched roger clemens battle bryan mcnamee on capitol hill regarding steroids for hours on my day off, it was not exactly riveting drama. but i watched it for hours. why?

the point is, athletes can become prima donnas and divas because we let them. we buy the ticket to watch them perform. we buy their shoe. we wear their jersey. we download their iphone apps (ochocinco). we watch terrell owens do push ups in front of his house and then watch his show on VH1 even while hating ourselves for watching it in the first place. we think ron artest is crazy, but is he crazy or is he just savvy enough to know we are the crazy ones who will fall for his antics every time? we get so caught up in the idea that the athletes are the problem. that they are the ones corrupting our beloved sports. i am beginning to believe that the only divas these days are us, the sports fan. we want our sports now. we want it our way. we get mad when our teams do not finish in first place every single year, but then criticize the other teams that do.  we cry foul when another team signs a high-priced free agent and say they are trying to buy a championship, never stopping to comprehend that this is professional sports and every team including our own favorites try to buy a championship every season. we like our athletes flashy, but get mad at them when they are. we like them respectable and nice, but when they are we say they are too boring. we want them to play for the love of the game but when they say they are, we argue it must be the money. we the fans are the ones never satisfied. the athletes, the supposed divas are just trying to squelch that hunger that drives us. they know we live vicariously through them. the question really becomes, why did we let ourselves become the diva?

Still No Replacement for Air.

if the FANS don’t like you, neither will the sponsors. This is the difference between Michael and Lebron, Michael understood that even though he had God-given once-in-a-millennium talent, he had to portray himself as the guy who lives down the street. Heck, even Brett Favre understands that much! LeBron fancies himself as not just a basketball player, but a celebrity, an icon. No one likes athletes and celebrities who act simply because they can or simply because everyone is afraid to tell them no.

how do you replace a replace a legend who refuses to be replaced?

Michael Jordan will grace the cover of 2K Sport’s NBA 2k11 this fall… which is great for the fans, but bad if you are David Stern, Lebron James or any NBA star not named Kobe Bryant (who was on the 2K10 cover). This is a further indictment of the image problems the league continues to face. The most marketable star the 2K Sports people could find to be the lead for their product has been retired since the end of the 2002-03 season (though some could argue that the REAL MJ actually retired in 1998).

Yes Air Jordan is widely accepted as the Greatest of All Time, but we haven’t seen EA Sports come out with John Elway or Joe Montana on the cover of their hit MADDEN NFL series (though they did attempt to insert a “retired” Brett Favre on the cover before his comeback with the Jets a couple seasons ago, but that doesn’t really count does it?). 2K hasn’t produced THE SHOW with Barry Bonds (and never will) as it’s lead.

The point is,  it is incredible that the current NBA 2-time MVP Lebron James is NOT on the cover. Further proof of the lack of star power that today’s NBA athlete truly has. Clearly self-promotion only gets you so far, right “King” James?? He can self-hype himself as KING and promote one-hour specials about himself, where he looks not the least bit comfortable or happy for that matter, but the simple truth is, if the FANS don’t like you, neither will the sponsors. This is the difference between Michael and Lebron, Michael understood that even though he had God-given once-in-a-millennium talent, he had to portray himself as the guy who lives down the street. Heck, even Brett Favre understands that much! LeBron fancies himself as not just a basketball player, but a celebrity, an icon. No one likes athletes and celebrities who act simply because they can or simply because everyone is afraid to tell them no.

The moral of the story remains the same. For all of the attempted “Next Jordan’s”, there is still no replacement for Air Jordan. Until today’s athlete learns to promote their public image like Michael Jordan, there never will be another Mike. At least… According to Me…