Time Out with Michael Kenny

Photo by Jarrett Skov

Growing up playing sports, kids are taught many things about the game. How to hit, how to throw, how to catch. However, perhaps the most important thing kids develop is character. The first time they step on the field, coaches teach them how to use sports to be a better person.

As players get older, these traits slowly disappear and it becomes more about winning. Today, it seems like that is about the only thing that matters. Perhaps this change is seen nowhere more clearly than in college football.

College football has turned into a business. Teams are of course trying to win every game, but perhaps not for the right reasons. Wins for your team mean you are that much closer to a bowl game, which means a fat check for the school. The focus needs to be less on the money and should return to the true fundamentals of the game: character building.

The NFL has nearly hit rock bottom in the public’s point of view. In the past six months, we have seen four different players charged with domestic violence (Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson, and Jonathan Dwyer). It is possible that several of these players have played their last games in the NFL.

You would think that knowing the spotlight is on them, they would be mindful of what is right and what is wrong. Apparently not.

The problems that have occurred in the NFL can be traced back to college. Teams are not doing enough to develop character in these young men. With such a huge emphasis on winning, programs are forgetting that these players are also people and need to develop life skills outside of football.

These domestic abuse cases are not the only problems that we have recently seen in college football. Jameis Winston, who has found himself in the hotseat, is perhaps the biggest name in college.

The Heisman Trophy winner has been putting himself in situations that have college football fans shaking their heads. Winston was accused of sexually assaulting a girl back in 2012.

Although no charges were filed against him, one can only ask why such accusations were brought up. Months after the investigation was closed, Winston was given a citation for stealing crab legs from a Publix.

You would think Winston, being a Heisman trophy winner, would learn that he is constantly in the spotlight and should watch his actions from now on. Last week, Winston was suspended for Florida Sates game against Clemson for yelling obscenities at the student union.

Being the third strike against Winston, something would have to be done to teach him a lesson: a one-game suspension. After all the trouble he has been in the past year, that is the only punishment he receives. Why did they not just slap him on the wrist?

With these light punishments, Winston is probably beginning to think he is above the law and can do anything. However, Florida State University (FSU) cannot afford to lose him. Losing Winston would ultimately kill their hopes at being National Champions. Is that not the most important thing,? Who cares if he keeps getting in trouble, as long as FSU has him on the field when it counts?

Players and universities are not the only ones who need to be reminded why they play the sport. Parents are at fault as well. Cam Newton was one of the best talents that college football has seen in recent memory. In 2010, reports came out that the then Heisman favorite (and eventual winner) father was asking colleges for money in return for his son’s services.

Cam was blessed with the gift to play the quarterback position, and his father was taking advantage of that. He was not concerned with his his son’s interests, but was obsessed with getting additional (illegal) benefits.

All the recent news uncovering football players’ poor decisions is removing our attention from the field and pushing us to question the character of these stars instead of only judging their skills out on the field.

How can kids learn good character skills through sports if the stars who are supposed to be their role models do not reflect attributes promoting the development towards becoming a better person?