Here's a thought: imagine if...anyone else in the world...were held to the same standards of behavior, and perceived moral righteousness, as the American professional athlete seems to be. Carpenters, analysts, stockbrokers...anyone. Imagine America as a nation swimming in a sea of people that looked and sounded like Mitt Romney.
Two days ago, Kobe Bryant got in trouble for losing it on a ref, calling him a "fucking faggot". Weak, offensive words on a number of levels, but let's dig deeper. When asked about the incident on a radio show, Kobe said - as one would expect - that he meant no disrespect to gays and lesbians, that in the heat of the moment he lost his cool and just yelled out an angry slur, he regrets it, and that as someone kids look up to, he would never want them to think that this is OK, or the right thing to do. This saying, of course (faggot) being one that in the homophobe worlds of corporate America and jock culture that Kobe Bryant inhabits, is tossed around almost as much as, "just keepin' busy", or "one day at a time". He also said that he planned to meet with gay and lesbian groups personally to atone, that he believed people have the right to be whoever they are and be respected, and that he took no umbrage with the fine levied against him by the NBA as a result. That fine? $100,000.
So this guy didn't blame it on the referee, and seemed to be taking a somewhat - somewhat - adult level of responsibility for his dumbass actions. Go spend 5 minutes listing to corporate US sports media and all you hear is how Kobe never "apologized". That he probably never would. He never said, "I was wrong". No, he didn't say those words, he expanded to the practical level of what those phrases actually entail. "I will atone", "Don't think this is acceptable", "I will pay for my actions". And for this, he's a morally hopeless cause. Sports.
Quite a contrast from, say, the 4 lunkheads - hit songwriters - I mentioned earlier...singing about queers and how, "That shit ain't never been right". Weird! Clearly we know their actual feelings. They're not going to tell you they lost their cool, or that they're meeting with gay and lesbian groups to try and atone for their sins. Question them they'll tell you about free speech, go further and they'll say it's God's rule, not theirs. OK. They have publishers pitching all their songs to every big Montgomery Gentry in the country, Kobe Bryant's getting fined $100 grand. Why? Why are mainstream athletes supposed to be of a higher caliber of human than anyone else? I seriously don't know. I don't know it's origin. Ty Cobb, one of the original 7 baseball hall of famers, was a worthless, full on racist. And Babe Ruth - hookers and partying...during prohibition! Poor Derek Jeter, he could never get away with that if he wanted to.
Also 2 days ago, Barry Bonds was (sort of) found guilty for lying to the grand jury about his steroid use. In the world of sports, you have to take this purity act so seriously that you'll lie all the way up to the Supreme Court to defend it. Steroids aren't even illegal. They're just illegal in baseball. And they weren't even illegal in baseball most of the time he was taking them. So they spent all this taxpayer money proving what they, you, and everybody else already knows - that Barry Bonds was taking steroids. Whoop-de-do.
In the outside world...who the hell cares? In sports...it's a big deal. Why? Several years ago, there was a book - an in depth investigation by some reporters into the secret, underground world of athletes procuring performance enhancing drugs. It was called, "Game Of Shadows". Oooooh. Even Bob Costas was saying isn't this book itself basis enough for the league to terminate certain payers, render them ineligible for the Hall of Fame, file motions, etc, etc. Hmmm. Here's another book I just read - "Life", by Keith Richards. There was more drug use in one leg of one Rolling Stones tour than in the entire history of the NFL, baseball, olympics, and world cup combined. And they've been in the rock and roll hall of fame for 22 years. They probably even had their own wing at some point. Who's going to stop listening to Brown Sugar? Here's another book - "You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again", by Julia Phillips, former Hollywood movie executive. It details enough snow in Hollywood to make the back rooms of Warner Brothers look like the surface of the north pole. Drugs, wife swapping, you name it. Yet are they ever going to take Michael Bay or Jack Nicholson's stars off the Hollywood walk of fame? Unlikely. Why - because no one cares. Who's going to stop watching Taxi Driver? Beyond the spectacle, no one cares what people do who they don't know.
Not that I'm bemoaning the unjust prosecution of today's professional athlete for purposes of sympathy. They will be fine. I just don't expect any more out of them than I do anyone else I don't know. It's amusing that they are held to these standards - righteous standards beyond those of even other famous sects of our culture. People lie, cheat on their wives, and take drugs in all walks of life. I'm sure some hockey players are great people, some meglomaniacal pricks, and some a bit of both. Jose Canseco is talked about like a lost soul, like he's beyond hope, like reading his book is like reading Bernie Madoff or something. A look into the way the other side thinks. Yet everyone reads Keith's book like - Rock it! Same people. Cooperstown and Cleveland could have been contracted by the same parent company. When people want to think about having a good time, they live vicariously through rock and rollers. When they feel like they need to be Jesus Christ, for some reason they choose to live vicariously through these guys. No middle.
I'm not saying I feel badly for them, I'm just glad I'm not one of them. Who wouldn't want to be Keith Richards? Who would want to be Barry Bonds?
Or Jimmer Fredette. One day he's going to reveal himself as a flawed human, and all hell's going to break loose. I know The Fleet Foxes don't feel that pressure, or the next guy on the ladder at Ford.
So choose rock and roll.