Baffoe: Stop Shaming Athletes Into Charitable Acts
Don't Miss This
Sports Fan Insider
By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) I was stupid for years. Well, I still am in many ways, but especially in one particular regrettable way.
Around the age of 12 I was at a White Sox game. I called to Frank Thomas (as did about 20 other kids) for an autograph. The Big Hurt walked toward the outfield to do some stretching without acknowledging me.
So I hated Thomas for years. In conversations his great play would be brought up, and I’d irrationally shoot it down by channeling my personal wounds into, “His glove is terrible” or something lame. It really wasn’t until his last few years on the South Side that I realized I was being a moron, that athletes’ jobs are to entertain me and not serve me and that Thomas had signed a bazillion autographs in his playing career when not getting prepared for a game, and I let go my own baggage and appreciated a Hall of Fame career that I got to watch live and on local TV every summer.
Some adults don’t let go, though. Some adults view professional athletes (and amateur ones, which is really gross) through this odd lens of sports chivalry, like they are knights in service of their owner kings but obligated to kowtow to the peasant fans. And they then pass this narrative on to their children, who then perpetuate it into adulthood because they are products of dumb parents.
Thus becomes the culture we find ourselves in of shaming and pressuring athletes into acts of charity, be it so simple as an autograph for a kid (or the slimy adult lying and saying it’s for a kid) to taking time out of their non-sports lives. @FacebookBears, which is a Twitter account a la the great @FacebookCubs, recently posted a screengrab of a “fan” chiding Charles Tillman, who at the time was a finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and who later won it, for not being one of the nine autographs this Helen Lovejoy’s kid received after being taught it’s totally normal to follow the players to their hotel.
Which helps foster a social world for teenagers in which they believe they are right and justified in asking celebrities to the prom. The prom thing has become really whacked in recent years. It’s like a wedding proposal now. Gone are the days when a guy asked his high school heavy petting partner to the dance over the phone and then got in a fight with her after the dance and she went and slept in his car and they broke up.
Nope, now the “asking” part is a massive production, or else you’re not showing you care. Look at this freak show of kids whose parents did not give them enough attention. Almost a year ago I had to deliver a special request pizza order to a teenage girl who didn’t know she was getting a pizza. I was instructed to tell the girl to read the special message on the inside of the box — a prom date request. How cute. What was even cuter was her dad answering the door and me asking for his daughter. Something similar will happen again this year, though bigger and sadder. I’ll have to sing a kid’s prom request to a girl while handing her a pizza. And I’ll probably do it because I’m a whore, and I hate myself.
Just like we’ll again hear news stories of kids asking celebrities to prom on YouTube or Twitter. And we’ll hear them because some false prophets of information actually treat these bratty, pathetic attempts as news. These stories aren’t cute or funny. They’re twisted and wrong.
The same goes for pressuring LeBron James into meeting personally with a Wisconsin girl who idolizes him and unfortunately also has cancer. I despise cancer, particularly in children. Last week I paid my respects at the casket of a student of mine who graduated less than two years ago and lost his fight with it. Every year I raise money for St. Baldrick’s to help fight this awful thing that takes the lives of too many kids.
LeBron James does a lot of charitable work himself. And neither he nor anyone else should be subject to social media pressure to meet specifically one of the thousands of kids in this country who have to battle cancer just because some people put their minds not to raising money for a cancer victim’s medical bills or making a sociopolitical impact but instead to a Twitter hashtag campaign to force a celebrity to do show up somewhere.
And I don’t hate so much on the kids involved as the adults in their lives and media that have fueled this rather than encouraging them to channel their efforts into something that would actually help Ebony Nettles-Bey’s condition. Meeting LeBron James will not cure her cancer.
That despite Rick Reilly equating it to “10 chemo sessions.” James shouldn’t have to take time out of his busy professional, charitable and personal schedule because Reilly took time away from repackaging his own jokes that your uncle’s golf buddies love to pen a pressure piece disguised as a drippy heartstring-tugger to further force James to meet with Ebony Nettles-Bey. It’s Reilly pimping the plight of a good kid amid a tremendous battle (and ignoring that the Miami Heat travel to play the Milwaukee Bucks in March and this meeting can easily happen without his phony drum banging). It’s using the average reader’s desire for stories that “will restore your faith in humanity” while not providing anything of actual substance to pretend that Reilly genuinely cares about this girl.
Because if Reilly really did care about her he’d fork over some of the multimillions he is paid a year to self-plagiarize and misquote his father-in-law to fly Nettles-Bey and her family away from the chill of Milwaukee for a few days to balmy Miami for this meet-up that he’s not-saying-but-just-saying has to happen.
Hey, maybe I should start a hashtag campaign for it. Yeah, that’s what gets things done, right? How about… #ReillyFlyEbony.
That sounds good. Everybody go to social media and start spreading #ReillyFlyEbony. Together we can make this happen.
Or we could just all stop demanding famous people be at our beck and call whenever we want to feel good about ourselves.