The recent issue at Ohio State University involving head coach Urban Meyer overlooking an assistant coach, Zach Smith, who allegedly beat his ex-wife Courtney Smith, reminded me of a problem in the world of sports that is only getting worse. I'm talking about how fan bases instantly dismiss the crimes and inappropriate actions of the players and teams they love, often at the expense of the victims.
This is nothing new. We've seen this time and time again from Jerry Sandusky to Steubenville to Ray Rice.
Ray Rice gets suspended after a vicious beating delivered to his girlfriend was caught on film and women wearing his jersey are rallying for him the next game. Jerry Sandusky, after decades of molesting young boys, is finally brought to justice, and fans and even board members at Penn State claim that it was all a hoax.
Why do we place our passion for sports over the health and wellness of human beings?
Grown men standing with signs displaying their love for their Buckeyes instead of showing concern that a coach that chose to overlook an assistant beating his wife is sickening, but as I mentioned, not unique.
I am no better than anyone else, and would never claim to be, but I do try to hold myself to a high standard. When it comes to letting sports cloud my thinking and overlook crimes and disgusting acts, I'm guilty too.
I'm a sports fan who has grown up rooting for my teams without a plan to ever give up on them. And then came the terrible news of Larry Nassar, the Michigan State sports doctor who was enabled to abuse female athlete after female athlete, both at the collegiate and Olympic levels. He didn't abuse five or ten or even fifty young women. No, he abused at the very least 332. And while Michigan State paid a hefty $500M settlement, the programs, coaches, counselors, and teachers who knew that this was going on remain employed with their reputations intact.
And what did this incident teach me as a fan? Did I protest outside the university President's office for his resignation? Did I even stop cheering for my Michigan State Spartans? Sadly, no.
It took the incident at Ohio State to help me even remember the incident at MSU. I quickly forgot it and resumed to rooting for the Spartans.
How Can We Change?
To rephrase my title, maybe it's not that sports are numbing us to important social issues, but that we are allowing our fandom to help us overlook problems that in any other situation should scare and disgust us. We let our allegiance to a sports team blind us to any potential wrongdoing of one of our favorite players or the team as an organization.
This is a scary reality that I don't believe any of us are immune from. So what do we do? Do we stop caring about sports like they mean everything? Or do we need to readjust how we react to these situations?
I don't have the answers, but I believe there is hope. We need to look deeper than the logo we wear on our jerseys and read the stories of these women who have been raped and beaten, the children who have been sexually abused, and the illegal actions of the sports teams from our favorite universities. If we look a little deeper and try to understand instead of assuming our teams or all-stars are innocent, we can empathize with the victims instead of demonizing them for trying to ruin the sports we love. There is no reason to give anyone or anything "blind allegiance."
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree, or just wish we wouldn't have to talk about difficult topics in regards to sports? Please comment below, and thank you for reading!