The Degradation of Sportsmanship in Athletics

CamNewton

I sat back and watched Super Bowl 50 on Sunday night – as did approximately 112 million other people – and, to be painfully honest, the game was a bit of a disappointment. Yes, I did pick the Panthers to win (more on that at the end of this essay), but it was more than that factor that caused the boredom. The game itself was more of a defensive struggle than most thought it would be. There were only two offensive touchdowns on the night (one by each team and both rushing TDs, surprisingly) and the defenses for both teams were the dominant forces. It was well deserved that the MVP for Super Bowl 50 went to Broncos LB Von Miller, who was a terror in sacking Panthers QB Cam Newton two and a half times and forcing two fumbles.

It was after the game that my appreciation for sportsmanship in athletics – at least here in the 21st century – took a further hit. In his post-game press conference, the Most Valuable Player for the National Football League, Newton, stepped to the podium to take questions regarding the game. Wait…perhaps it is better to say what he actually did. In every other game of the postseason prior to the Super Bowl, Newton had taken the time to dress splendidly following his wins, put a big smile on his face and entertain the reporters who peppered him with questions, of which he answered each with long answers that gave them and football fans additional insight into the game.

CamNewton2

Fast forward to Sunday night and it was like looking at another person – at least the NFL better hope so. Newton, clad in a black hoodie pulled up closely around his head instead of the splendid suits that he had worn, wasn’t standing proudly at the podium when he came to address the media following the Super Bowl loss. Slumped in a chair, gone was the glowing smile that Newton wore throughout the postseason, as were the lengthy answers for the reporters’ questions. Newton basically acted as a petulant child who, when not given what he thought he deserved, decided to pout his way through a requirement that he really didn’t want to do…and, in fact, he didn’t; Newton didn’t finish the post-game press conference, he got up and walked away while reporters continued to ask questions.

This is just the latest demonstration of the degradation of sportsmanship in athletics in the 21st century, and it also seems to be dipping down further into the amateur and even recreational ranks. Earlier this month, tennis champion Serena Williams – a living legend in a sport if there ever is one – acted as if there were about 1000 other places she would have rather been after losing the Australian Open to Angelique Kerber, where a victory for Williams would have tied her with Steffi Graf for second on the all-time list (and only two Grand Slam titles behind Margaret Court). She answered questions from journalists rather abruptly, only lengthening out her answers when it served her purposes, such as when she wanted to complain. “Everyone expects me to win every single match…as much as I would like to be a robot, I’m not,” Williams complained in the post-match news conference.

She was even worse at last year’s U. S. Open where, after being defeated by upstart Roberta Vinci and prevented from becoming the first woman to win the Grand Slam – winning all of tennis’ major titles in one season – since Graf in 1988, Williams basically slumped at the table during the post-match interview, scowling the entire time and actually said, “I don’t want to talk about how disappointing it is for me. If you have any other questions…” before storming out of the press conference early (perhaps we should call what Newton did “pulling a Serena”).

The general degradation of sportsmanship doesn’t stop there, however. Before the National Hockey League went on its All-Star break, defenseman Dennis Wideman of the Calgary Flames was knocked into the boards by a hit from a member of the Nashville Predators on January 27. As he arose and headed to the bench, he cross-checked (held his stick between his hands across his chest) linesman Don Henderson from behind in protest for a penalty not being called. Wideman attempted to say that he was “disoriented” and “never saw” the official until the last minute, but the video of him pulling back his hands and putting a little extra pop on the hit was hard to ignore. The NHL suspended Wideman for 20 games, which is currently under appeal.

This lack of sportsmanship isn’t just in the professional arena either. In September 2015 at the start of high school football season, two Texas high schoolers targeted an official – one knocking him to the ground while the other speared him in the kidneys with his helmet – for his supposed poor officiating and alleged racial remarks during the game. Investigation revealed that one of the coaches for the team ORDERED the players to go after the official; that coach resigned before any action could be taken and the players were suspended for the remainder of the season.

According to the Associated Press’ Paul Newberry, it can get worse. In 2013, a soccer referee in Utah was killed when a 17-year-old player didn’t like one of his calls and hit him with a punch; that player was sentenced to juvenile detention. Another player in an adult soccer game in Michigan killed a 44-year-old referee after receiving a red card in another altercation. That player now is serving 15 years in prison for manslaughter.

Sportsmanship is something that is critical to the conduct of sporting events and it extends to the requirements off the field, no matter how much you don’t like them or that the questions become repetitive. For interviews and dealing with fans, athletes have to be able to treat the press and their fans responsibly and with respect. To sit and act as if it is a burden to answer questions about your chosen profession – the job YOU chose to do, the one that has given you millions of dollars – or to be a complete bitch or bastard about having to be there, perhaps you should try to live among the “common people” for a bit and see how it is to live there.

An outstanding example of how to handle people and the media is tennis player Novak Djokovic. The video of him at the French Open during a rain delay with a ball boy has become famous and there are several other occurrences where “The Joker” has endeared himself to fans and the media alike. Other athletes such as Derek Jeter, Stephen Curry and others also treat the fans like gold, the media well and, win or lose, always try to respect the game.

And perhaps that is the problem with some of the athletes nowadays. They don’t respect the game that they play, they just came for the millions of dollars that it graces them with and screw any responsibility for having to actually do something you might not want to do. For some, they’re set in their ways and aren’t going to change. For Newton, he’s only 26…there’s perhaps time for him to have a change of attitude and become more of a sportsman than he showed on Sunday night.

WRAPPING UP THE NFL SEASON

Hey, at least I got the 24 points for the Broncos right! (To remind you, the prediction was Panthers 28, Broncos 24.)

There were three picks that I made for the actual game on Sunday night. The Broncos came through for me on the spread by winning outright, but the two teams didn’t even come close to going over the 44 O/U line. Add in that “straight up” pick of the Panthers and I went 1-2 to finish the season 56-39-5.

When it comes to the prop bets, I was pretty sharp there! I said to pass on the bet of whether there would be a missed extra point (there was a missed field goal but not an extra point); that the first touchdown would be something other than a passing TD (it was), the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (-4.5) would score more points on Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder than the Panthers would against the Broncos (he did, 26 points versus the Panthers’ 10);  that Lady Gaga would go UNDER 2:20 for the National Anthem (this was a cause of some argument…some sites say it is when she ends the note on “brave” and, the first time, it was under, when she did it the SECOND time, it did go over…as always, the House makes the rules); the Golden Gate Bridge WAS shown, Mike Carey missed a replay call and the Broncos dumped ORANGE Gatorade on head coach Gary Kubiak.

That means I got six prop bets versus one on the Super Bowl itself…perhaps next year I’ll just do prop bets!

Wondering Whatever Happened To…For September 12

Wondering whatever happened to the women of The A-Team while pondering…

Is Hollywood Bereft of Ideas? – Earlier this week, plenty of branches of the media – the sports and entertainment worlds, in particular – were abuzz over the latest casting decision made in Tinseltown. Word has it that mixed martial arts (MMA) champion Ronda Rousey had agreed to join the cast of a reboot of the movie Road House, with Rousey taking on the iconic role originally portrayed by the late Patrick Swayze. Road House, for those that have been able to avoid the 975 broadcasts of the movie per day on cable, is the story of a highly educated bouncer who goes to a small Missouri town to “clean up” a bar, but has to deal with a dastardly crime boss while romancing said crime boss’ ex-girlfriend (there’s more, but I hate to provide too many spoilers).

Give Rousey credit, she actually contacted Lisa Niemi, Swayze’s widow, to ask if it would be OK for her to take on the role her husband had created in the 1989 movie (according to reports, Niemi was more than pleased to give her blessing). And it isn’t as if Rousey hasn’t been working her way onto the Big Screen previously. Starring roles in both The Expendables 3 and Fast & Furious 7 plus a cameo in Entourage have already paved the way in demonstrating that Rousey may have some bankable acting talent. But why couldn’t Hollywood come up with something original for Rousey to make her big-screen breakthrough?

The current trend for Hollywood to “reboot” or “reimage” movies and television shows is wrong in that it gives those who are supposed to be creative an easy escape rather than challenging them to new material. Movies less than a decade old such as the Spider Man trilogy and the Fantastic Four franchise have been “rebooted” not for any artistic purpose but simply to either double-dip at the trough because the movies or shows were ahead of their time (re:  the acceptance of superhero movies as money-making outlets) or to fleece their audience a second time. While it hasn’t made the airwaves yet, the NBC series Heroes Reborn smacks of this double dipping also.

Instead of letting the creativity muscle atrophy to the point it’s nonexistent, why not come up with original programming and movies rather than fall back on tried and true tropes? Why not venture outside the box and allow for new minds to come up with programming and movies that challenge their audience while entertaining them at the same time (the USA Network’s Mr. Robot was one of the few things I’ve seen this year that challenged its viewers mind)? While Rousey is more than able to take on the role of Dalton, she should have her own vehicle to carry her to stardom.

It’s Not about Your Color, But… – The U. S. Open in tennis its final stages, looking to crown champions in the final major of the year. Tennis powerhouse Serena Williams is looking to become the first person since 1988 to win all four of tennis’ Grand Slam events (the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon alongside the U. S. Open) in the same calendar year (last achieved by Steffi Graf), truly a remarkable achievement. It was the treatment of another member of the tennis community at the hands of the New York Police Department that has garnered the news, however.

On Wednesday, retired U. S. tennis star James Blake – who was ranked #4 in the world at one point during his career – was waiting outside his hotel to head to Flushing Meadows, where he was to offer commentary on the tournament. Much to Blake’s surprise, he was rushed by an unknown person, slammed to the concrete and forced to lay handcuffed face down by the attacker. The person was an undercover police officer, who never identified himself but seemed to enjoy his apprehension of a violent criminal. That was until the person laying prone in the street in front of them was identified, however.

A retired police officer told the approximately six officers standing around Blake that they, in fact, had violently attacked and apprehended a former tennis champion, not the credit card fraudster (a white collar crime, not one you’d think of for such treatment) they thought they’d apprehended. What was truly reprehensible after the incident was that the officers didn’t report the incident to their superiors; it took Blake stepping up to requests for an interview from the New York Daily News before any mention of the incident became public.

The mayor of New York, Bill deBlasio, and NYPD Chief Bill Bratton fell over themselves with an apology to Blake. “I would be very interested in talking to him to extend my apologies,” Bratton said in a press conference after the incident came to light. “Mr. Blake had no role or involvement in the criminal investigation that we were conducting and was totally innocent.” Here’s the kicker, though:  Bratton went on to say that Blake’s skin color had nothing to do with how he was treated, that “if you look at the photograph of the suspect it looks like the twin brother of Mr. Blake.” I’m sure that’s the case, Chief, and that’s why your officers were so quick to report the incident to you…

Hell Freezes Over, Occasion #1 – There is no middle ground when it comes to Fox News and the opinions that people hold of the channel. Either everything they say is the gospel and should be followed by an “Amen” or they are the second coming of the Antichrist. Sometimes, however, one of the many talented anchors and/or opinion makers they employ steps off the usual script and surprises people.

On Tuesday, Fox News anchor/commentator Shepard Smith apparently forgot to check his in-box for the latest memos or he simply decided to think for himself. The discussion over the continued jailing of Kentucky court clerk Kim Davis – who at that time was still incarcerated for her refusal to do her job and issue marriage licenses to all couples, including those of the same sex – was at a boiling point (this was but a few hours before her release from jail) when Smith ripped off his commentary on the subject.

Smith stated that Davis’ refusal to do her job on religious grounds was but a publicity stunt aimed at drumming up supporters of “religious freedoms.” “We thought what this woman wanted was an accommodation, which they’ve now granted her, something that worked for everybody,” Smith said after telling his audience that a compromise – her clerks performing the duty – had been offered. “But it’s not what (Kim Davis and her attorney) want.”

“This is what they want, what you’re hearing now, and this what they’re going to get: stirred up argument and a couple of days in the news cycle,” he said. Smith also pointed out the hypocrisy of their argument, saying, “This is the same crowd that says, ‘We don’t want Sharia law, don’t let them tell us what to do, keep their religion out of our lives and out of our government.’” Seems as though Smith might have to go to the Fox “dungeon” for some attention…

Now to answer the question…what happened to the women of The A-Team?

Of course, The A-Team was a popular television show from the mid 1980s that focused on a crack military commando unit helmed by Colonel Hannibal Smith (the late George Peppard) that was convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. Along with Templeton “Face” Peck (Dirk Benedict), B. A. “Bad Attitude” Baracus (Mr. T) and H. M. “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz), the team helped out those who could afford their services while trying to clear their name and get the U. S. Army off their back. As a part of that effort, a young reporter was a part of the show’s cast.

Amy Amanda Adams (portrayed by Melinda Culea) was a reporter who accidentally hooked up with The A-Team through an investigation she was doing background research. She became a valuable member of the team, often getting them access to certain areas and providing them with information on the parties they were attacking. Behind the scenes, however, the “team” wasn’t quite as tight as portrayed.

Culea wanted to expand her role in the show, even to the point of taking up arms beside her male costars, but the creators and producers of the show didn’t want to breach the fraternity of the military ensemble. After slightly more than one season on the show, Culea was written out of the show and had a semi-successful life afterwards as a guest star on such programs as Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Murder, She Wrote and Knots Landing. She last was seen on the silver screen in 2001, when she was in the movie Dying on the Edge.

Although Culea’s character would be mentioned on occasion, the producers still felt the show needed a female presence. With that in mind, Marla Heasley was brought in to portray another reporter, Tawnia Baker. Heasley confirmed the anti-female mentality of the program through two instances with Peppard and, by the start of the third season, she was gone as well. Although she later would appear in the movie The Marrying Man, Heasley was out of the industry by 1993.

A third female was given a shot in the fifth season, but she didn’t even reach beyond the introduction. Tia Carrere was supposed to play a Vietnam war orphan (The A-Team was supposed to be Vietnam War veterans) who would join up with the team on its missions but, due to conflicts with General Hospital (the ABC soap opera she was also performing on), Carrere was unable to take on the show following her debut. Following that disappointment, Carrere went on to have arguably the best career of the three actresses.

Carrere would be the paramour of Mike Myers’ character Wayne in the two Wayne’s World movies and had a long run in the syndicated television program Relic Hunter as the lead character Sydney Fox. Most recently, Carrere has earned two Grammy Awards for her performance of Hawaiian music and lives in Los Angeles where she continues to perform.