Monday, February 15, 2016

In today's world, it's all about ... me, me, me

     Watching and listening to today's politicians is about the only thing more difficult than observing today's athletes.
Personally, I don't care what Cam Newton says or doesn't say ... win or
 lose. But the media gives him a lot of attention (photo from
     I have written -- and railed -- about this previously. It came to mind again after  Super Bowl 50.
     Cam Newton's lack of humility, his showoffness (how's that for coining a word?), his outrageous celebrations, and then his postgame petulance -- pouting, sulking, whatever -- is too much. But even the sainted Peyton Manning sank to the occasion afterward. I mean ... what's the deal with repeatedly telling us he was going to drink a lot of beer, a lot of Budweiser?
     Really, I didn't want to hear that.
     But I'm not here to pick on Cam Newton. There's been enough of that, and I'm not piling on. He's a wonderful athlete and when, a day later, he explained that his brief, moody postgame session with the media was because he is a "sore loser," I can identify with that.
     My old friends from Shreveport can vouch that I've long had that trait. And I'm not apologizing.
     Sure, Cam could have been more accommodating for the media. But -- this is a sign of being an old ex-media person -- I no longer pay attention to what coaches and/or athletes have to say. It's all BS to me now.
     I have friends who write about the NFL and deal with the athletes, and I'm happy for them because they love it and it keeps them employed. But ...
     There is a reason I haven't watched an NFL game live in 2 1/2 seasons. Can't stand the on-the-field behavior; can't stand the off-the-field crap. If this sounds as if I've written it previously, I have.
     I did record some games a year ago when the Cowboys had a contending team, and watched them late at night -- sometimes knowing the result, sometimes not. But the past season's Cowboys were a lost cause; didn't record the games, didn't listen to the radio play-by-play.
     If I never see another interview with the Cowboys' owner/(ha) general manager, that's OK.
     Last NFL game I watched live, it actually was a matchup of the Super Bowl 50 teams -- Panthers vs. Broncos. But this was the 2013 season and in the first five minutes, two players -- a Denver cornerback and a Carolina receiver -- had three fights. With that, I turned off the TV and I haven't been back to live action.
     Still haven't seen Odell Beckham Jr.'s ugly incident vs. the Panthers this past season -- and don't want to.
     Confession: I did record this Super Bowl and -- not knowing the result -- watched it starting at about 11:30 that night. Only reason is I wanted to see how Peyton Manning did. Fine. Glad he went out a winner. But those beer comments afterward?
     But this is not just about the NFL. Take just about any sport, and athletes are acting out. Tennis stars are screaming after winning points; pitchers are screaming after key strikeouts; bats are being flipped after home runs; basketball players pose after thunderous dunks; a college basketball player I watched two weeks ago hit a hot streak and, after his third 3-pointer in about a minute, strutted around like a peacock.
     Even golf, in my opinion the most genteel of the major sports, has its characters that I am sure fellow competitors find hard to tolerate. (Hello, the former Tiger Woods and Kevin Na.)
     The on-field celebrations by baseball teams are ridiculous, especially for "walkoff" victories; so is the pouring of the Gatorade/water coolers on the players being interviewed, and bless the media people that are doused as they do the interview.
     (The always cutting-up Texas Rangers' shortstop who loves doing this and soaked the woman interviewer early last season should worry more about his defense in the decisive playoff game that ended his team's season.)
     The championship celebrations, with the champagne and the goggles, are off-limits on my television. Hey, win the World Series ... and then go for it. The Kansas City Royals deserved it.
     Love seeing the old stars -- for instance, Bill Russell (NBA) -- be part of the title-trophy presentations. But that's for nostalgia's sake, and I like nostalgia.
     Yes, I'm sounds like a bitter old man who has seen better days. My view: sportsmanship and humility are dormant; brashness and ugliness are in.
     Nowhere is that more true than in this Presidential campaign. Politics -- the "sport of politics" are you hear so often (I heard it on the nightly news just a week ago) -- has become name-calling and trash-talking. It is absolutely worse than ever, and I am sick of it ... with nine months before we vote. Heaven help us.
     But back to athletics. Used to be, many years ago, that you never "showed up" opponents. It was taboo. Athletes were acted out, or were all about themselves, were considered "hot dogs." Now there are so many hot dogs, there is not enough relish and mustard in the Western Hemisphere to cover them all. We'll have to borrow from China.
     My wife says that my view of athletics, and today's athletes, and the way I react to them is a personal problem. Maybe. So I checked with some friends, and some feel the same way. But it's not a problem for some. They feel it's a generational gap; the older you are, the more you resent athletes acting out.
     And then I think, we had athletes in the 1960s and '70s who were pretty darned confident, pretty brash. Muhammad Ali set the standard; he was "The Greatest" at trash talking. Joe Namath. Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson. Elmo Wright, at the University of Houston in the late 1960s, started the touchdown-dance revolution. Mark Gastineau was the NFL's first "sack dancer" in the mid-1980s. Darryl Dawkins and others began tearing down backboards with thunder dunks in the NBA.
     Now many more athletes than not have their own "celebration" moves. Yeah, there are now rules in place against "taunting" the opponent ... but it still happens.
     An example: Some of my favorite basketball players -- Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons and even the great Dirk Nowitzki, all of the Dallas Mavericks -- let the world know whenever they pump in a big 3-point shot.
     Not much I resent more than watching an LSU wide receiver signal first down after his catch or an LSU defensive back wave his arms after a pass breakup ... and LSU is behind by 20 points at the time. That's really awful. I have complained about that before.
     Today's world in sports and politics (and other areas): Look at me, me, me. A friend says that's what Facebook is about.
     But here is a disclaimer. Look at this blog: A lot of it is about ... me. It's about my family, my opinions, things that interest me (and hopefully the readers). I try to put my spin on it. I have had people, friends, make suggestions for blog  pieces -- good suggestions -- and I told them I didn't want to do those because I don't have a personal connection.
     Truth is, I could not, would not have done this blog until I retired as a full-time newspaper journalist. But the time to begin, at my wife's urging, was right four years ago.
     So as I was thinking of writing this piece, I was reading the book The Time of Our Lives by political analyst Peggy Noonan -- one of President Ronald Reagan's main speechwriters in the 1980s -- and came across a segment of her writing about her son's eighth-grade confirmation class in the Catholic Church in 2001.
     She writes how much she loved some of those children, how kindhearted and brave and "deep inside good" they are. But then she writes:
    "Some are victims of the self-esteem movement. They have a wholly unearned self-respect. No, an unearned admiration for themselves. And they have been given this high sense of themselves by parents and teachers who didn't and don't have time for them and who make it up to them by making them conceited. I'm not sure how this will play out at they hit adulthood. What will happen to them when the world stops telling them what they have been told every day for the first quarter century of their lives, which is: You are wonderful."
    All about me, even in an eighth-grade Catholic confirmation class.
    Makes me think of Cam Newton. Even more, it makes me think of college football's National Signing Day. I think that college football recruiting -- maybe more than anything -- is overblown, overpublicized. This is a blog topic to itself, but the glorification of these young men is magnified so greatly on that day.
    It is such a spectacle, and this year one recruit took to skydiving to reveal his college choice (Ole Miss). What next?
    My opinion -- and it's in the great minority -- is to do away with National Signing Day for football. Instead let's have a National Signing Day for kids signing scholarships for real educational subjects.
    I digress. Back to Cam Newton. The other side, as a friend pointed out, is that the pouting Super Bowl-losing QB has -- and I looked this up -- three times in the past year or two done something really special for young men stricken by cancer.
    Another point: When Peyton Manning was the losing Super Bowl QB with the Colts, he walked off the field and did not congratulate any players from the Saints (the team in his hometown). So consider that.
    Finally, I saw a wonderful moment a few weeks ago when Dirk Nowitzki made the game-winning basket against the Los Angeles Lakers and, after he shot, wound up right in front of Kobe Bryant (injured and not dressed out) on the Lakers' bench. Kobe tapped Dirk on the behind in a sign of congratulations, and Dirk turned and tapped Kobe on the shoulder -- mutual respect from two of the NBA's biggest current stars.
    That's the kind of sportsmanship that still plays well. Nice to see. I'm not bitter about that. 

1 comment:

  1. From Gary West: Great column. I agree completely and like you have a hard time watching professional sports. (But, yes, you are a sore loser, too. I have the tossed and or broken chairs -- in memory -- to prove it.)