Letter to the editor
In defense of sports and athletes
While there may be an overemphasis on athletics at times, the broad-brushed statements filled with gross exaggerations, misinformation, and unfair stereotypes in several editorials dealing with the role and impact of sports on our society compel me to address the legitimacy of the opinions.
One writer stated that he would rather hear about “student involvement in environmental affairs than what percentage of effort some comparatively dim-witted basketball player thinks is necessary to win the next game.” Student involvement in environmental affairs should be encouraged and their efforts to improve the environment should be reported and applauded. We, however, should take umbrage at the comparison to the broad-brushed stereotyped “dim-witted basketball player.” There is no doubt that there are athletes who are poor students; my personal experiences as an athlete, teacher, and a coach are quite different though. I’ve coached and been associated with many athletes who were the valedictorians and salutatorians, 4.0 GPA graduates, and ultimately successful in their professional careers and pillars of their communities. The post-athletic career accomplishments of the individuals inducted into our Athletic Hall of Fame are just as outstanding as their athletic accomplishments. Among these inductees are many doctors, education professionals, business professionals, authors, attorneys, law enforcement personnel, and graduates of prestigious academic institutions such as Northwestern, Yale and Dartmouth. Dim-witted? Hardly.
The attention given to sports so derided by the same editorial is a business decision based on simple economics. The writer states that: “It’s time to radically curtail the overabundance of attention given to sports.” Consumers and advertisers vote with their dollars. I vote with my entertainment dollars to attend Wright State basketball games, the performances at the Schuster Center, and the occasional movie. Families will allocate so many dollars for entertainment. Apparently, millions of people every week are voting with their dollars to support athletics through their game attendance, viewership of games on TV, and the purchasing of newspapers and magazines with sports related articles. The writer also calls it “cultural insanity” to focus on the UD Flyers March Madness run and Ohio State game coverage. … Are there really “social opportunity costs” because of “this egregious misplacement of attention?” Reading the sports page for 15 minutes or attending a performance at the Schuster for a couple of hours once or twice a month is not going to diminish anyone’s social activism.
Another writer who frequently bashes athletics quoted an author who said that “free bread and circus were provided by corrupt Roman emperors to distract the masses from following foreign and domestic policies.” She said, “Some things never seem to change.” Hyperbole I hope. She also points out that the decline in many cultures has been linked with an overemphasis on sports. We are in a cultural decline because of sports? Hyperbole 2.0?
Is it “an outrageous shame and cultural insanity” to give a great deal of attention to sports? No, the insanity only comes about if coaches, parents, teachers and other mentors fail to keep the athletes focused on their education, their family, and community responsibilities. The values and lessons of teamwork, effort, sacrifice and responding to adversity taught by many coaches should not be overshadowed by the occasional mistakes of a few and the alleged debilitating effects of large font headlines. For some young men and women, the athletic realm is their only source of discipline and stability. The cultural decline of society surely won’t be because of athletic squads and sports-related newspaper headlines. I don’t know what types of athletic careers the critics experienced, but the vast majority of players, coaches, athletic administrators, and reporters I was associated with were responsible individuals and exemplary role models.
R. GREGGORY CROSS