Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Opposite ends of the sports spectrum

Reports from the LPGA say that Lorena Ochoa will announce her retirement from professional golf on Friday. It must be nice to abandon your career at the age of 28. For all that we hear about how women's golf is struggling, can life really be so bad that they are leaping out at 28? Perhaps not. They make millions off the course for commercials and product endorsements, and if they're smart they bank it all and get out while their womb is still warm and they can raise a family. What I find interesting is that the best women's golfer in the world can suddenly decide to hang up her cleats and sit in a chair. We'll see how long it lasts.
Lorena has the personality of a golf bag, but her impact on the game has been great. The LPGA will miss her competitive side, but on a personal side I can't tell you three things that she has done off the course - which is probably a good thing. Generally, the LPGA has a nice group of athletes. You probably won't read about any sex scandals or bad behavior. That makes for a dull bunch, but from a league standpoint they are also manageable and worthy of respect, which is more than can be said for a lot of other sports...
Troubled Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisburger has been suspended for 6 games by the NFL for "violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy." That's funny. A league with so many miscreants has a personal conduct policy. Meanwhile, some in the media are saying that the penalty is too stiff because he wasn't convicted of anything. That's where sports and real life separate.
In real life, teachers and cops are routinely suspended for "allegedly" doing something before they go to trial or it is proved that they actually did anything wrong. Their names are put in the newspaper and the allegations are printed. Maybe they go to trial and are acquitted? If they are it's doubtful that you'll hear about it or that the acquittal will garner as much attention as the accusations. That's the problem I have with the news media and their use of the word "allegedly." You can say anything about anybody, and if you couch it with the eraser-phrase allegedly the media isn't responsible.
You allegedly had sex with a teen aged girl, sources say. Sources? They don't have to disclose their sources or prove anything. That's where you see people leaving the police station with a coat over their heads. It should be illegal to print a story about someone until a court of law has declared their guilt or innocence, but I live in a Utopian society where quarterbacks are treated like regular people, so don't pay any attention to what I think.
The furor surrounding the Roethlisburger story is all about him being a superstar athlete. Somehow, we think (or some of you think) that his being a Super Bowl winner makes him adhere to some special behavior pattern that the rest of us do not adhere to. But he is really just a knucklehead athlete who would probably be flipping burgers or washing cars if he couldn't throw a football really far.
Strangely, the alleged crime scene in his latest fiasco (there have been others) was washed clean and scrubbed beyond even the CSI crew. Key pieces of evidence are missing and it is widely believed that the police conspired to keep Ben out of jail. Allegedly.
According to the Inquirer's Stephen A. Smith, There's no assertion of innocence when surveillance tapes that could be used for evidence are "accidentally" taped over and subsequently erased. Or when the scene in question - the sink, floor, and toilet - is scrubbed down with Pine-Sol eight hours after the alleged incident because no one told the janitor it was, indeed, a crime scene. Or when the police themselves make a concerted effort to dissuade the alleged victim from filing charges - before waiting four hours after the bathroom was cleaned to call in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Of course, if it were you or me - well, you - we'd be sitting in jail on a million dollars bail that we couldn't possibly meet, because they wanted to "make an example out of you," and our company would have suspended us without pay pending a trial. But Ben skates the law and is slapped by the NFL for six games, which could possibly turn into four if they deem him worthy.
Yeah - I'm guessing four games.
Maybe it's just sour grapes because I can't throw a football or run really fast. Or maybe it's a statement of fact. They drained the water from that gene pool, so I struggle along with most of us. What I really wonder about is why sports is so important when they do not contribute anything substantive to our lives other than entertainment. They don't make a product or supply a service that we can use. In fact, what they do winds up costing us money, and we buy garments with their names on the back. It's no wonder they feel like the world owes them something, and you can't blame them for feeling that way because we do it to them ourselves.
But that's the life of a big-time athlete. Their lives are sheltered from the time they are old enough to be considered better than their peers. They blow through high school, get a free space in the university of their choice and make millions just to sign their name to a professional contract. Meanwhile, some kid who is really good at math or has a skill in life has to find money for school and beat the streets looking for a job.
And God forbid he makes a mistake in life, because he's screwed. It's a strange place, this America.

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