I have written and spoken at length about what an important role I believe sports plays in our lives.
But to me it seems to have taken on quite another societal position.
You have probably heard me say that sports is but a kaleidoscope and it seems during times of strife has a way of drawing us back to focus our energy on positive things and bringing us together often enmasse.
While that is still somewhat accurate, it seems in the last two or three years sports on and off the field of endeavor have assumed quite a different role in society and quite frankly I don’t believe it is healthy one.
Some if not much of it no doubt has to do with money.
Pro athletes and coaches make too much and along with the green sometimes bring some sense of invincibility. Have you seen those salaries?
In the college ranks, some institutions that previously were supposed bastions of integrity have seen their leaders either encourage questionable behavior by turning a blind eye or denying its existence.
No doubt the most egreous scenario was at Penn State where the illegal and amoral behavior of an assistant football coach existed for decades without anyone coming forward or at least if they did, their input was ignored.
So where were the checks and balances and whose responsibility was it?
A powerhouse program headed by a highly successful powerhouse coach producing barrels of money along with national recognition and nary a whistleblower.
The public will never know how deep that cover-up was.
It seems that every day on the crawl at the bottom of your favorite sports station comes notice where someone is being accused of alleged wrong doing or a case is adjudicated and later in the day analyzed by the “experts.”
Some days the “Top 10” could well be comprised of courtroom lowlights and along with that comes the deniers, the protectors and the reactors.
There never seems to be an end but what is most worrisome is such situations and bad behavior either are increasing or moving more to the forefront.
The latest, or I hope it is the latest, comes at Duke University where for the third time in his career a star player blatantly tripped an opponent who had schooled him and about to score.
Not only is an immediate suspension not imposed – the offending player later returned to the game – but the most prominent coach in the land announced he wouldn’t be pressured to make a quick decision.
After watching the player’s outlandish reaction on the bench, not just to teammates but also an assistant coach, it seems obvious to even the casual observer that discipline is but part of what should be mandated.
In my mind this player is in desperate need of extensive anger management.
I am certainly not qualified or should I be suggesting such a thing but isn’t this the responsibility of the governing ranks of an institution not as an example that such behavior will not be tolerated but rather as the more important example that assistance toward growth and maturity are equally or maybe in some cases more important than honing one’s athletic skills.
While there is little doubt it is needed, I am not at all convinced that is where the situation is headed or if it is probably undisclosed because of student privacy concerns.
The Duke situation is but the tip of the iceberg but a most notable illustration of similar scenarios that have changed little since Indiana Bobby Knight’s chair or the sideline ire of Woody Hayes of Ohio State.
But we make commercials about such things.