Competition vs. Promotion
I’m a little worried about the direction some of the players are taking in sports. Obviously, it’s a competitive business, and most are willing do anything, and others just about anything to gain a competitive edge. But there’s always been a certain understanding that everybody else is out there trying to do the same thing.
Keyshawn Johnson’s comments all week about the Jets and Wayne Chrebet were ludicrous, and perhaps were masking some fear Johnson has of being overshadowed by his former team. He’s outrageous, and off the field, entertaining, but his act is tired. Terrell Owens’ display in the middle of Texas Stadium was way out of line. At least out of line from what has been always the acceptable norm. Maybe this is what the XFL is going to be. An over the top, outrageous, no holds barred kind of spectacle.
In other words, pro wrestling.
There is certainly a spot for pro wrestling. I like it, it is very entertaining and I think the people in the ring are fantastic athletes. The outcome being predetermined has no effect on my enjoyment and the soap opera aspect of it lets me drop in an out in different weeks without missing a beat.
I’m trying not to use the word “respect” here, but that’s what players in all of professional sports talk about. Getting it, giving it, using it as motivation and talking about it at contract time. The only time pro wrestlers talk about respect is when they’re making fun of it.
Calling the other guy out for not having enough. Do they really care about it? Of course not. It’s part of the act, and part of that act is to make fun of things that happen in the real world. Do they really have it for one another? Certainly. Without it, somebody would get seriously hurt every time they stepped into the ring. The problem is, pro football players are trying to do more and more to call attention to themselves. They want to be on the national cable highlight shows. It leads to more money, on the field and in endorsement money. If the players in the NFL start to lose respect for each other as competitors and for the game as a team competition, the who sport is in big trouble. Fans are beginning to reject the game already because the players are so detached from the everyday fan. If the players continue to create their own culture that’s apart from what made the game attractive in the first place, the games’ popularity will dwindle, and quickly.
It’s like in the movie “Any Given Sunday.” The players jump about during the game, scream things at each other, throw each other on the ground and talk about respect. The new quarterback isn’t interested in anything but being a star, and drawing the focus on himself. In the end it all works out, even the owner says she learned something from her coach, and the coach says he learned something from that braggart of a quarterback. That’s all a fantasy, or at least the real parts are from some of the worst teams you’ve ever seen.
Fans are sick of the me, me, me attitude of players. There’s nothing wrong with exhorting your team, or stirring the pot a little leading up to a competition but once the game starts, people want to see skil and desire, not how much you can run your mouth.
At the Olympics, many American athletes are taking the “in your face” way of competing to the arena. That might seem normal to us, as immune as we’ve become to rude behavior, but to the rest of the world it’s a shock. Gary Hall’s “we’ll smash them like guitars” comment only fired up the Australians, who strummed placidly from the gold medal stand. Australians seem to be content with the competition and showing themselves off to the world. American athletes have been trained in the “win at any cost” way of competing. There is no second place, as the t-shirt says, it’s only the first loser. Would we have thought that if Lance Armstrong hadn’t won the Tour de France? What if he had finished second? Would he have been a loser? Hardly.
In this era of instant gratification and information, the competition in everyday life is a natural progression. Let’s step back and look into the past. Were all the runners up losers? Did they not fulfull their goal of competing as best they could? The goal is always to win, but there is no shame in the competition itself. Separating the ideal of amatuer sport and the compeition it provides from the professional games is dangerous. If it’s ONLY about the money, is it worth it?