What happened in sports this summer? When asking this question, actual sporting events were likely not the first things to come to mind. No, it was likely a long list of ridiculous announcements and news only the most hardcore fans could care about it. It has been a summer of exciting fake news. There is no other way to describe it. So many events have happened off the field while so little has happened on it. When Michael Vick being involved in legal troubles is just passing news, you know that the summer has been very different from any in the past.
There was the NBA free agency. When LeBron famously uttered the words “I’m taking my talents to South Beach,” he instantly cemented himself as a villain and created a new phrase that will take on some sort of sexual definition in the coming years (if it has not already). The way the show played out, with LeBron sitting in front of a bunch of children acting as accessories to his arrogant display, getting softballs from Jim Gray about chewing nails and LeBron handing out a scholarship to the University of Phoenix, it was something I would not have expected to ever see. Now? It will likely become a norm for those headline athletes. I am looking at you, Chris Paul.
Enough ink has been spilled on whether he was right or wrong or if something could have happened differently, but I just cannot handle the fact that we, as viewers, criticized him endlessly about all of this but were glued to the television when he came to finally announce his intention to play with his best friends in Miami. The fact that ESPN was a willing partner made me question what the NBA will look like in 20 years, with more players concerned about looking the part of superstar than acting it.
Then there was the debacle in the NCAA with USC. Somehow, the NCAA has decided that it is important to enforce the rules that it makes, a truly novel concept. They are now trying to use USC as an example for this. This would be fine if the athletes that are most affected by this were not in middle school when Student Athlete A and Student Athlete B wrecked havoc on the proud program. With the coaching staff also gone, the NCAA seems to want to remind the people that innocents must be accountable to the actions of wrongdoers. Someone has to pay, and as long as it’s someone, justice has been served.
On the subject of the NFL, they have commendably changed their methods of evaluating players’ health and now see any sort of head injury as serious. It is troubling that they did not take concussions as seriously in the past, but the fact that they are willing to show some sort of acceptance of their wrongs is welcome. It is more troubling that the player culture still refuses to fully embrace this. When someone gets knocked in the head and becomes disoriented, it is common sense that he should not be doing anything to stress himself out. In football, it is the opposite; when you do not go back in because of an injury, you are considered “weak” and letting the team down.
Has it really come to the point where a giant poster is required to remind players that they should not be going into games where they could suffer serious brain damage? Even worse, I don’t think any of those players injured should be doing the heavy reading on the posters after being smashed to the ground which is when the information is kind of the most important.
And of course, there’s Brett Favre, one of my favorite targets. He has toyed with the Vikings all summer and has finally decided to come back as a “favor” to his teammates, all of whom most certainly love him. How could one not be endeared to the 41-year old with ankle problems after he made the cardinal sin of quarterbacking by throwing a ball across his body on his backfoot for an interception that decided the most important game of the season, not going to any mandatory workouts and skipping the first preseason game? When a bunch of teammates have to travel to a guy’s home town to get some sort of answer whether or not he is playing and the kicker is the first to leak the news guy in question had made a decision, you know that Brett Favre has to be involved. Somehow, I do not foresee the $16 million he is making this season as strengthening the notion that he is doing the team a “favor.”
I don’t envy sports fans today, who have to deal with all of this acting as news in place of recaps of games. Still, it can’t get worse…right? Who am I kidding? After all of this, I am prepared for just about anything.