On Athletes and Distractions…

ryan_lochte_at_2013_zajac

Ryan Lochte credit Wikipedia

 

This is an opinion piece…

August 19, 2016 (San Diego) Ryan Lochte has apologized for what happened in Rio. Apparently what happened at a gas station, did not stay at the gas station. He has apologized in a very long post in Instagram. We offer it for your judgement.

A post shared by Ryanlochte (@ryanlochte) on

Now here is the real big picture. If you were an American tourist, especially not a well connected one, at a high profile event, I doubt you would have been let off this easily. And that is a problem.

Let me explain. Sports has become such a distraction that athletes can get away with almost anything. Rape by a top tier college football player tends to be ignored, or played down. You might remember the case of Brock Turner, who was given six months for rape. Did he mention he was a top swimmer for Stanford, and this saga was treated as if he were the victim? Here is another case that happened later. Brandon Vandenburg was found guilty by a jury in Tennessee.

Mind you, this is the second time he is found guilty. This is according to CNN:

He and another player, Corey Lamont Batey, were found guilty in January 2015 but Judge Watkins declared a mistrial after finding one of the jurors was biased and not impartial. The judge said the man who became the jury foreman was the victim in a statutory rape case, information the man failed to disclose when asked during the selection process.

 

In some states, such as Texas, High School football dominates life, especially in small towns, but also in big cities. That is where you want to be at. Sports, has taken over many of the social activities of the town.

And while kids not playing football go to club teams if they want to be recruited to Division I teams, high schools are still the place for football and division I, or later the NFL.

It gets worst, university coaches are better payed than professors. And we even justify this.

The excuses are ridiculous. Coaches are listened to but not your english or biology teacher? So what does better for society, and yes there is a value here. the distraction and entertainment of a college game, or a future doctor, or engineer? When we as a society put that much emphasis on entertainment over education, we already took a critical step towards decline.

Lochte, and the rest of the misbehaving athletes also point to something else. and it is not just them. It is the media. Lochte is 32, hardly out of his teens. If anything he is approaching middle age. Yet many media accounts refer to these men as young, and at times as kids. Anybody peeing on the side of a gas station who is 32, would be called drunk (he was) and would not be called young and inexperienced. He wasn’t, either young or inexperienced. If you chose to use the word coddled, protected, and in a bubble, that would be more appropriate, and in our view descriptive. Professional athletes are treated as heroes and almost super human. And no, Olympians are no longer amateur, not when you measure the number of sponsorships they get.

Now here is another problem. And I am contributing to this as well. The story of his saga in Brazil took the air out of coverage of things likes tens of thousands of Americans displaced by both flood and fire. It is not like the other major event, the presidential race, did not take oxygen out of it either. It did, and in spades. Did you hear Paul Manafort quit the Trump campaign? If you are going Paul who? that is the kind of inside baseball reporting that nobody outside media cares.

The focus of media on this story was two fold. Yes, it did quickly become an international incident, but it also keeps eyes on screen. As in international incident it deserves some reporting, but not the breathless breaking news every hour on the hour.

Alas there is a sick reasons for this. If you need to turn on an profit, trust me, a flood will not do it. Yes, you can generate some exciting footage, but for the most part, a poor American facing a foreign legal system, for mostly being an idiot, will generate far more page views, and eyes on screen. It is a very easy story to tell. The arc is extremely easy and if the story remained as originally told, that is robbery. it would be even more sympathetic. Page views translates to income, and in the current media environment you need that. This is why a story that truly belongs almost exclusively on ESPN, had the coverage it had.

Sports have replaced issues that affect your day to day life, because many Americans are frankly not interested in the nitty gritty of government and how it directly affects them. Now there is a story to be told for sure about the Rio Olympics, that affects millions of people, and Brazilians are split on the effects of the Olympic Games. These games, like any major event, has affected the poor in ways that are almost predictable anymore. This includes police going into the favelas to raid them.

So if there is a bright side to this, is that Lochte did unify Brazilians against the stereotypical ugly and spoiled American, who in their view, used stereotypes of Brazilians. It also raises the question of whether we should stop treating athletes as superstars and bring them down a few notches, to human levels. That to me is the real take away. Because I guarantee it, you were the one giving a false statement to the police, here or down in Brazil, you would face the music. And by the music, I mean possible prison time.

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