Sports fan – Aren’t you a hypocrite!

Happy Diwali to all the readers that celebrate it. What is Diwali without some fireworks – NK Sreedhar has a thought-provoking post that may provide some fireworks. Please fire away your comments.

I am game to holding people to a higher standard, especially those snarly ruthless politicians since they are coaxing and cajoling me to reach the highest office. Even I was shocked to find myself outside of the political realm and moving into another realm altogether. I could hear Rod Serling voiceover in the background – you unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension, a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You just entered the twilight zone of – Professional sports!

That’s right ladies and gentlemen – Professional sports! Today, it’s not as easy as throwing marbles or playing sticks, is it? It’s highly complicated and life consuming. We are talking about putting people on a pedestal, holding them accountable, and expecting them to dole out miracles everyday. Even Jesus Christ didn’t have this kind of pressure on him to perform miracles every day. And sports fans, oh we are ever so picky and downright hypocrites.

Hypocrite! Me, you say. Yeah! You and me both darling! Let’s look at some of the recent events that rocked the sports world. Sure, I exaggerate a little bit, but, you know me – what’s life without a little drama. Manny Ramirez, for those of you who don’t know him, is arguably the best right hand hitter in baseball, goes from Boston to LA and Boston fans hate him like he’s their evil Mother-in-law and cry foul. Should Sourav Ganguly be playing or sitting it out? Is he being selfish for wanting to play? Australian cricket team decides to travel to India, but not to Pakistan and Jones cries foul – they are doing it only for the money and not for security reasons. Finally, the outcry over IPL – players are selling their souls and doing it for the money. How can we lose our culture and do such a thing? What’s this country coming to?

Let’s look at the logic here. What’s wrong with playing for the money? We all do it, but only when we do it, we claim a noble goal (career growth, right opportunity – fill in the blank with your favorite cause here). The noble and not-for-profit messiah Jones himself did play for the money and continues to do so even today. Why else did he leave a trail of vomit at Chepauk like a scavenger hunt gone bad and continued to play?

It’s easy to critic Manny, Sourav, Australian team and players in the IPL, but, it’s downright hypocritical for you and me to question it and pretend that we don’t / won’t do the same. Let’s not kid ourselves. We’d jump ship too if someone offers 100% or 200% more money to do the same job, or pay 50% more than the next person for the same house. Not one of us will say, Oh no! I’ll only take half that money because I like charity. Of course, you are exempted if you are doing real charity work.

Let’s stop holding sports stars to a higher standard that we won’t hold ourselves to. They are, after all, human. And please, let’s stop pretending that it degrades our culture. Unless you are a Martian and you just landed here, you are no different than the next Joe Sport and it’s not detrimental to our culture any more than you switching houses.

What do you think? Are you a hypocrite or did you just land here?


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    I completely agree, what is wrong with playing for more money? And don’t hold players for high standard, after all they are human.

    I think very worst switch from recent memory is Jonny Damon, who switched from Boston to New York. The issue with him is, he showed off very much loyal with Boston but switched to New York, usually players from Boston would not switch to New York, because of rivalry.

    But we have to remember some players are still out there playing for loyalty. Very recent example is, Brett Favre 38 years old veteran – he played 16 seasons in Green Bay. His journey with them was remarkable, he played for Green Bay even when he distressed with his personal losses. At same time, Green Bay also gives him same respect and finally due to some plan mess up he went with NY Jets. But some fans highly misunderstood his intention and scolded him. He wants to play as long as his physical allows him, because football is his nirvana.

    Switching sides are not an issue, as long as they are not making some nasty statements about other teams and showing superficial loyalty. After all, professional sports are business where money is king and players are ready to utilize it because their career span is not that long.

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    Interesting post. There are 2 things i can think of – one, sportspersons are seen as role models and hence maybe held to a higher standard. This is the same reason, why we may want our Presidents and Prime Ministers and other political leaders to be impeccable, whereas we may not ourselves live up to those. Second, is it just plain envy – these sportspersons make a gazillion dollars per year and it is not clear what is the difference between 1 gazillion dollars and 1.5 gazillion dollars?

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    Good point about Favre. How could I have forgotten about him? He wanted to start and wasn’t going to get that opportunity at GB. What’s wrong in finding a team that will let him start.

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    All Sportspersons have better than us is talent in a particular sport. If we hold them to a higher standard in delivering on that sport, then I am okay with it. How can we hold them to a higher moral or intellectual standard. The basis seem to be flawed.

    Envy – Now, that I can understand. I am not making as much as him/her, so why is he/she looking for more. I guess having a special talent is like Onida – Neighbors envy, owner’s pride 🙂

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    Good post Sridhar. Loyality..I see sometimes our fellow employee would have worked loyally for few years. Once he puts papers, he will be treated as an outsider. I am still trying to understand how this all works. May be associations and disassociations happen so rapidly..

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    You are right the basis seems flawed. But i am just trying to think why we hold them to a higher standard.

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    NK – Thought provoking post.

    I can’t comment on Boston’s reaction to Ramirez, since I don’t follow baseball. So, let me make a point about the IPL auction.

    India is a country that’s torn between the old & the new. There are still many people around – and not just in India – who think that certain things can’t be sold. They know that players need a salary. In addition to that, they already get juicy celebrity endorsements. Cricket is a game. There’s nothing wrong in making money out of Cricket, Baseball or Basketball. But, converting that to a cash-cow, running it completely like a business reduces it to mere Dollars & Cents.

    Till about a decade back, the British (& some Europeans too) found Americans common, coarse & vulgar. That’s because they were openly pre-occupied with money. There’s nothing wrong with making money. In fact, its downright stupid to assume its wrong. But, not everything is for sale. This is the sub-text that some people are reading into the IPL auction.

    I don’t think you, me or most readers of this BLOG would accept a job simply because it pays 100% more. We also look for job satisfaction, quality of human interaction etc.

    Having said that, what do I think about the IPL auction? When other nations do that, why should India be left behind? Plus, running it like a business brings more accountability to the Management of the team. There’s a higher likelihood that non-performing players would find no takers. In those aspects, its good. But does it coarsen human spirit? You bet it does. Would I decry it? No, there are worse things happening in the world.

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    Sukumar & NK – Why do we hold sports-(wo)men to a higher standard? Because, there’s a high likelihood that our kids would emulate them. We tell them that sports is a good thing, it builds character – so, sports icons become defacto role models.

    If by some chance a movie star becomes a role model for kids – they generally don’t – they are held to a higher standard too. I remember how Actor Vijay got the short end of the stick, when he acted “very closely” with Namitha in a recent movie. People were up in arms because Vijay is loved by kids in Tamil Nadu.

    Having said that, it is unfair to hold sports/movie stars to a higher standard. They didn’t sign-up for that did they? They are just trying to do their job & lead their life their way. As long as no laws are broken, we shouldn’t complain.

    Just my 2 cents.

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    Good point Priya. Yes, the sportspersons and celebrities don’t explicitly sign up for being role models. But because the lot of things they do end up in the public space, people end up passing judgements on their actions. If everyone’s actions were similarly made public, many people will end up being seen in similar light. It is just that the general public who are not under the spotlight can do their “thing” in private.

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    Most of these athletes have a short lifespan in sports – perhaps an average of 10 years. And trying to maximize their earning potential within that time span is fine. Just that a lot of them earn enough for their next 5 generations ;).

    I have no qualms with athletes moving from one team to another if the monetary reward associated with the move is significant. Why should I expect any loyalty from them, when I would perhaps do the same. As Seinfeld says, we do not root for players anymore, we root for teams and the jerseys!!.

    About them being role models, I would paraphrase “Sir Charles” – Athletes are not role models, it must be the parents, uncles and aunts who slog their butt off in a non-decrepit job to enable their children/relatives have a decent living”. It is these common and decent folks that one should look up to. Kids can use athletes as avenues to get motivated, but they are not role models.


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    Loyalty – now, that’s a loaded topic. I can’t tell if I started like Ferrari after Schumacher or if it was the other way around. Ganesh in his latest comment points out that we support the team and the jersey more than the player and I agree with that.

    In my opinion, how an individual deals with the scenario that you’ve mentioned is purely based on perspective. If the person has different perspectives, he/she might be more open and not look at it as loyalty. On the other hand, it could be out-of-sight out-of-mind too 🙂

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    Good point about IPL. Coarsen the human spirit – now, that’s deep 🙂

    In the case of IPL, we are having trouble because the negotiation is an open and naked process and that adds a vulgar twist for many. We don’t have issues with players signing up for marketing deals etc because we are not part of the negotiation. I am sure if we are part of that negotiation or at least we know the intricacies of that negotiation, we will consider that taboo too.

    That’s the same reason why I think people are upset of Manny Ramirez – we were too privy to the negotiation process and it was out in the open.

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    I see a nuance in your point about holding sports person to a higher standard. We don’t consider every sports person a role model. I am sure more people would consider Dhoni a role model than those that consider Gambhir a role model. It’s not just the star factor or how they play the game, but it’s also how they conduct themselves on and off the field that elevates players into role models.

    It would be interesting to figure out how we map them to a role model – because they are the cream of the crop in one aspect, we instantly expect them to be the cream in all aspects, even though it defies all logic and in many cases the players behave that way too based on our expectations – a big cycle of Pygmalion effect.

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    NK – People are shocked at players being up for auction. They grumble at endorsement deals too – some of it could be envy. But, most of it could be money gaining more prominence than the game.

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