The only thing sports fans like more than watching sports is complaining about sports. Loud, obnoxious, sanctimonious complaining -- especially if they feel the object of their ire did something to sully the innocence, honor, and integrity of their favorite multi-billion-dollar injury factory.
Funny, then, that fans point all this pouting and outrage at actions they themselves are responsible for. And by "they," I mean "you and me." Hypocrisy is a hell of a drug, and I'm as much a dirty addict as you. But together, we can kick the habit, burn our soapboxes to ashes, turn our high horses into glue, and finally accept our roles in ...
4Massive Amounts Of Cheating
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Perhaps you've noticed that cheating in sports is back in the headlines recently. I live in New England and have rooted for the Patriots for over 20 years, so I've definitely fucking noticed. And I've also noticed the super-sized vitriol from both sides. Many hate the Pats for this. They've "disgraced the game," they've "never won a honest game in their lives," Brady "should be banned for life," he "doesn't deserve the Hall of Fame," and so on. On the other hand, many feel the Pats did nothing wrong, that "the balls deflated naturally due to the weather," that "Brady doesn't cheat because he's too good," "haters gonna ..." do something, probably, and so on.
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Seethe with jealousy, probably.
Just about everybody, regardless of their stance, is forgetting two major things here. One: Cheating is everywhere, in every sport (including whatever team you like). Two: Athletes cheat because the fans demand it.
I'm sure you're already pouring liquid cognitive dissonance into your brain so that you forget. It's a natural reaction to realizing you root for Darth Vader and that you're Palpatine. But it's true. let's start with that first point. Playing sports full-time is one of the most physically and mentally draining jobs out there. We, as fragile lumps of monkey meat, are simply not meant to do it. So to make it through the season (and hopefully many more) pro athletes will seek any advantage, take any shortcut, and break any rule they can, not only to win, but to simply make their job possible.
Drugs of any kind are certainly one way to cheat, and still among the most popular methods of doing so. (Baseball's biggest, most profitable rivalry is nothing but juiced-up mutants in red against juiced-up mutants in pinstripes, remember.) If a pill, injection, cream, or whatever else helps athletes train longer, recover from injury faster, and stay the fuck awake during games, then sports people are going to use them. Honor, integrity, and preserving the purity of the game means jack fuck all when kabillions of dollars and all of the fan interest is at stake.
Well, they're actually all about the purity.
But then there's the less chemically-related rule breaking, as my Pats have done. And as your team has done. Sports are crooked as fuck, for all the reasons listed above. Corking bats, doctoring baseballs, doctoring footballs, doctoring basketballs, piping in fake crowd noise to rattle the opposition, altering the playing field, pushing and shoving like siblings who both want to ride shotgun, doctoring hockey sticks (at least they leave the puck alone ... for now), spying on your opponents, illegally nabbing a coach who helps you go undefeated and win a championship ... I could go on forever, but I'll stop with Don Shula and the Dolphins who cheated to get him. Both because I have more points to get to, and because extra-fuck Shula and the Dolphins. Holier-than-thou hypocrites.
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Too bad you didn't cheat to get Marino some more help. Then he might have won something.
Point is, cheating is both everywhere and constant. Because though we don't come out and say, "C'MON YOU BASTARDS, CHEAT HARDER!" we clearly demand it. We want athletes to always win and always be the best, and we complain loudly when they're not (except in Houston, where fans are used to it). But it's impossible to be that great and keep your body natural and follow the rule book to the letter. So they cheat. They shoot up. They pop pills. They steal plays. They screw with the equipment. And when they get caught, we're conveniently aghast.
Unless the cheating helped our team win. Then we'll look the other way, making it crystal clear to the athletes that not only does cheating work, but that their very best customers encourage it.
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Basketball legend / professional loudmouth Charles Barkley believes in two things. One is that barbecue is fucking awesome. The other is that he and other athletes are NOT role models, and our children (or, for that matter, our adults) shouldn't look to them for guidance living their lives.
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But mainly the barbecue.
Clearly, many sports fans disagree with Barkley, given our obsession with scolding and shaming pro sportsers every time the desire to win overtakes the desire to be nice. With every bench-clearing brawl, with every high-sticking to the head, with every instance of an athlete screaming and hollering at his poor, unsuspecting teammates because they're not playing up to the screamer's standards, fans bleat the same thing: These players are "assholes." They're "bad role models." They're "spoiled, whiny crybabies." It's about how you play the game, remember? Didn't your mama and after-school specials teach you anything?
Well, sure, they probably did. Once upon a time. But then we showed up. We started celebrating them for not treating their sport like a game and instead treating it like World War III. We love when a player's blood starts pumping with a hyper-competitive fire that makes losing not only unacceptable, but IMPOSSIBLE. And if they let that fire die down and start treating the game like, well, a game, we complain LOUDLY. "They're not giving it their all," we say. "They're settling for less than 100 percent," we say. "Why should we give you our money when you clearly don't want to be here?" we ask.
So they stay at 100 percent, boring holes in their opposition and stopping at nothing to sports-murder them to sports-death. Except too often, that competitive fire rages out of control. That's when the fighting, screaming, and childish bullshit begins. That's the dark side of the fighting spirit we ask for in exchange for our love, adulation, and six months' salary transformed into front-row tickets.
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"Boys, boys! Wait 'til you get paid before you start that shit."
I'll give you an at-home example, since I'm as terrible as you. The Red Sox's Pedro Martinez was a stone-cold killer on the mound. When he was pitching, nothing else mattered except getting the next strikeout. Or, oftentimes, hitting the next guy with a 100 MPH, rock-hard leather ball to make him pay for ... something. Probably not striking out fast enough.
But he hated to lose more than anything in the world, and treated every at-bat like his life was on the line, so fans adored him. I adored him. This despite knowing full well he was an ass. Like, he body slammed Dom Zimmer -- a 73-year-old man -- in front of everybody. Zimmer's crime? He worked for the other team and might have insulted Mama Martinez. So down he went, the latest victim of a player who was simply too competitive, aggressive, and fiery for his own good:
Then there's perhaps the most famous athlete for whom fans helped blur the line between "ice-cold opponent crusher" and "straight-up bullying asshole": Michael Jordan. Greatest basketballer ever? Aside from Monstar #4, absolutely. Smug, arrogant dickhole? Hell yes -- Jordan was the best player but the worst teammate throughout almost his entire career. He respected nobody, snapped over the slightest affronts, publicly trashed his own teammates if they weren't performing to his standards, routinely overruled his coach and yelled at him like a child screaming for sweets ... just an all-around meaniehead, really.
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Note: This behavior is only acceptable when you don't suck at whatever you're doing.
But he, like so many other overly-driven psycho-jocks, was this way (and still is) because we molded him that way. We demanded nothing but the absolute best, all the time, and he gave it to us. Unfortunately, being the best can manifest into being just the worst -- something we fans just hate, hate, hate. Or at least, we pretend to.