Sunday, July 29, 2007

Athletes: Entitlement & Personal Responsibility

This evening, I've been reading a few stories about both Michael Vick and professional athletes. What I've been reading really ticks me off.

Here is a quote from an article titled The Many Sides of Michael Vick, in the July 28 issue of The Washington Post. "It's difficult for people to understand, particularly the middle class and upper middle class," said Brian Colwell, a sociology professor at the University of Missouri. "They just see it as a bad behavior, rather than a learned sense of how to survive." (Click here to read the full article.)

Well, I can't say that I agree with him on that one. For one thing, he's implying that the lower classes would understand that Vick's behavior is "a learned sense of how to survive," and that they would understand it because they live the same way. I'd say that as a middle- or upper-class citizen, Colwell is quick to underestimate those of the "lower" economic classes. While someone may indeed have to show signs of a particular behavior in order to survive in your 'hood, you don't need to literally buy into that behavior as an adult. Vick is a professional athlete and an adult. To blame his boyhood experiences on his current (alleged) illegal behavior is demeaning to everyone involved, and lets him off the hook for taking responsibility for his actions.

Yet another article, in the July 29 issue of The Washington Post, titled Poor Sports, discusses how many top athletes this past week have risked their careers and reputations with their illegal behaviors.

Here is a quote from that article (click here to read the full story):
Alan Goldberg, psychological consultant to many college and Olympic teams, blames an adoring public and the media, which he said help to create images of players as gods. Too often television, newspapers and magazines mythologize athletes, he said, giving an illusion that they have some kind of superior integrity when in reality they aren't much different than anyone else.

Again, the athlete is being let off the hook for his own behavior. "The adoring public" do not dictate an athlete's behavior, and we shouldn't be blamed for it. All those athletes that are involved in illegal dog fighting, doping, or otherwise abusive or "cheating" behaviors - - they made their own choices.

The real problem is the sense of entitlement these athletes obviously feel that they have - that they are entitled to win, entitled to be above the law. There are lots of athletes out there that do well because of their inherent talents and competencies and hard work. There are lots of athletes that choose decent - or at the least, lawful - behavior, no matter if they grew up poor or rich, in a ghetto or not. It's the same for any person - non-athletes included.

Society as a whole may be responsible for the perpetuation of ugly and abusive behaviors, but we are not responsible for individuals making the choice to engage in those activities.

1 comment:

  1. I think you have a good point about personal responsibility and people having to be held to account for thier actions.

    Minor point: Colwell said it was PARTICULARLY hard for people from different class backgrounds to understand what might motivate the behavior. Not that people from lower class backgrounds will not also see it as bad behavior.

    Also I don't think Goldberg was saying anything different than what you conclude. That atheletes get pumped up with a sense of themselves as 'gods'. i.e. given a sense of entitlement. The question is "where does that sense come from, if not from an adoring public that has it's sense of what is praisworthy askew." Where a person who can pass a football can earn tens of millions a year while a good kindergarden teacher can barely pay the electric bill.


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