By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Somebody on one of your favorite teams will do something really bad or really dumb in 2015. He or she will be accused of a felony, misdemeanor or something not necessarily illegal but certainly morally or ethically frowned upon.READ MORE: Working For Chicago: School Bus Companies Looking For Drivers This Fall
This is the reality of sports now. It’s always been the reality, if we’re being honest; our awareness of it is just more heightened because of the Internet and social media. Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and most of the titans of sports lore would have been far less polished in print during their playing careers had camera phones and Twitter existed in their days.
For some fans a pristine image of their heroes who run fast or throw hard is ideal. Personally, I believe deifying entertainers is part of what contributes to the poor behavior in some of them, but I digress. You like to tell yourself that you’re not a fanboy or a jersey chaser, that you’re not a drooling devotee to all things Mr(s). Superstar. You’re rational. You can compartmentalize.
Then Jameis Winston happens. Then Ray Rice and Floyd Mayweather and Adrian Peterson happen. Then Hope Solo happens. Then the Washington NFL team name’s awareness happens. Then the guy on your favorite team gets popped for PEDs. Somebody you admire and root for is now in the crosshairs of a legal process and/or public condemnation.
And it bothers you. It should — in the way that anybody as a human being should be bothered by domestic violence, sexual assault or (the less serious) cheating in major sports, but also how as a fan your rooting interest has been compromised.
Sports stars do bad stuff sometimes, except it’s the ones on other teams or in other sports. They deserve the public beating.
But one that wears your loyal colors? Whoa, wait a minute, gotta hear both sides. He has no past history of wrongdoing. She’s done a lot of good stuff that nobody’s pointing out, though. Have we considered what incentives there might be for the supposed victim? It’s not his fault that girl was drunk or dressed that way. That alleged victim shouldn’t have pushed the wrong buttons and gotten punched. Innocent until proven guilty. The investigation conducted and report compiled by highly suspect parties claims no wrongdoing. What happened to the First Amendment? Like all the finger-waggers are so perfect?
Stop. That famous person is not your friend. He or she doesn’t care about you and doesn’t want to know you. You to that person are no more than a pebble in a gathering of stepping stones toward his or her fame and financial success. Or in this case, you’re a willing, ignorant shield to the righteous fire he or she is taking for messing up bad.READ MORE: MISSING: Kyrin Carter, 12, Has Autism, Last Seen At Best Western In Hammond, Indiana
“Do you know that false accusations of sexual assault happen?” They do, but like hardly ever, and certainly not enough to warrant consideration of reflexively minimizing someone’s accusation.
The evidence in the cases against your favorite player gets read before the columns get penned; it just might not be the selective confirmation bias to which you’re clinging. The media isn’t biased to sell papers and get clicks. (At least it wasn’t when you were feeling better about yourself reading about when the player on the other team was in trouble.) This isn’t the wussification of America, and your anecdotal evidence isn’t valid. Stop blaming the actual victims to negotiate you being uncomfortable with the situation.
A stranger has been accused of doing something wrong. And it’s really messed up to want to so vehemently defend that person at all costs.
You wearing the scandalized athlete’s jersey or bringing a sign to a game backing him/her isn’t a sign of support. It’s a sad attempt at affirming your own righteousness, and it contributes to sociopath and narcissism. Admitting a person you supported might be much less the great person — hell, even less than the neutral person we’d all be fine with — means you believed a lie. You were then fooled, and you then feel dumb.
That feeling sucks. I get it. Sammy Sosa was the end-all, be-all of my sports world for years. Notre Dame football has been part of my life since I was conscious of sports. I even respected the hell out of Joe Paterno for most of my life. They all turned very sour in various ways for me, and I had to recalibrate.
Entertainment relies on appealing to what makes us feel good. Major sports spend gobs of money creating the façade that everything away from the white lines is fine and dandy, but not every crack can get sealed. Bad things are constantly happening to and by what we had thought were great people, and sometimes we find out about it.
Then you have the choice to make. You can rally your fellow fans to support the injustice committed to your feel-good fan experience. Or you can be rational, can understand that the bad guys also wear the good colors, can be mad at your favorite athlete for doing wrong and compromising yours and the team’s success. And you can understand the bad situation doesn’t reflect poorly on you the fan, unless you’re choosing the former option.
I hope in 2015 it’s the latter. Happy New Year.MORE NEWS: Hard Rock Casino Opening In Gary Friday
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimBaffoe.