As a society we have grown to believe that athletes should have a higher moral standard than us mortals. We put these gods of sport on a pedestal, and try to live vicariously threw them. Children every where become Mariano Rivera shutting down the final batter of the World Series or Tom Brady winning another Super Bowl in school yard clashes. Maybe it is because we start emulating these athletes early in life that makes us believe they are infallible. However, these gods of sports are plagued with the imperfections of their Greek counterparts. That’s not to say they are bad people, but they are susceptible to the shortcomings that we ourselves are prone to. These flaws though do not justify the withholding of awards by pretentious on lookers and I’m here to tell you why.
If you are still clinging to an image of the athletes of old being a symbol of how great the good old days were, stop reading here. Babe Ruth was a drunk and Walter Hagen chased after any skirt that had legs. The only reason these stories weren’t prevalent in the news is that there was still a respect that existed between reporters and athletes. Also society didn’t care if an athlete on the road went boozing and womanizing all night, as long as they performed the next day. Society didn’t like their heroes gambling though, a trait that can be traced back to the despicable Black Soxs of 1919. Unfortunately for Pete Rose, this was his vice. Even though his addiction arguably never affected the way the MLB’s all time hit leader played the game, the purists that run the baseball Hall of Fame have kept him an exile. Did Rose screw up? Probably, but lets not forget he didn’t throw games, just bet on himself and his team. That shouldn’t keep him in baseball purgatory.
At least Rose has been able to keep his record. While baseball has still kept some of its records amidst controversy (asterisks and Barry Bonds aside) the NCAA has a habit of trying to erase its history. Whether its the absence of the greatest basketball team of all time or the removal of Joe Paterno’s wins, the NCAA thinks they can just erase history. If you ask anyone who won the 2005 Heisman Trophy they would say Reggie Bush. However the former Trojan no longer receives a Christmas card from Desmond and the gang. Oh and Auburn fans I haven’t forgotten you. If Cam Newton hadn’t currently been a member of the most exciting team in the country and inline for a BCS National Championship Game, he would’ve joined Mr. Bush. History may eventually put Auburn in the same boat as USC, but frankly who cares. We all know Auburn and USC won that year.
I understand that the NCAA is trying to avoid institutions from gaining an unfair advantage. But realistically what can the NCAA expect from a multimillion dollar business that doesn’t pay it’s most important assets? These kickbacks exist at every school in the country, it’s just about who’s in the limelight at the time. This usually results in the most inconsistent punishments in all of sports.
Innocent until proven guilty doesn’t exist to these organizations. The NCAA and media were quick to throw an innocent Duke Lacrosse program under the bus. While I don’t know exactly what happened in Tallahassee last December, you think the sporting world would’ve thought to hold off judgement on Jameis Winston. However there are voters not putting him on their ballots because that he could be POTENTIALLY charged. The Florida State quarterback has been the most consistent dominating force in all of college football, so much so he has yet to have to finish a football game. As important as we think of the Heisman is, it is simply an award for the best football player in the country. It is not a feel good sportsmanship trophy. And even if he is charged and found not guilty, it will be a shame that the best season ever for a QB wouldn’t be marked with a Heisman.
Barry Bonds, Michael Vick and numerous NCAA players join the list of players that have been wronged by the system. While the media acts like these players should possess above human qualities, the truth is much simpler. Like most people they’ve worked hard on a skill they can now do well enough to make a paycheck. Just like all humans they have flaws and sometimes act on these flaws. It is important to remember these flaws because they add character, story and drama to sports. However when it comes to awards lets remember what they did on the field.