I’m going to get away from Syracuse sports here for a minute, and please believe me when I say this isn’t meant to be some #HotSportsTake column. But with the way the entire Ray Rice ordeal has played out, it feels like a good time to stop and talk about those times when being a fan shifts more toward fanaticism than simply root, root, rooting for the home team.
By now, if you’re reading a sports website like this you are no doubt familiar with the ins and outs of the Ray Rice saga, including what we didn’t see but can surmise happened in that elevator with his now-wife, as well as the fallout – or lack thereof – of the alleged domestic assault. Reactions to this whole thing have been pretty extreme, with the general consensus being that Rice got off easy with his two game suspension. But in the grander scheme, the situation just sort of highlights how scenarios such as this make us worse people.
1. Success Equals Forgiveness
This is true whether you’re talking about sports or movies or politics. Bill Clinton got an extramarital blowjob, but as long as the economy was humming (pun only mildly intended) along nicely, no one gave a rat’s ass. Back when Lindsey Lohan was making movies like Mean Girls, no one cared that she was partying her ass off and embarrassing herself, but as soon as her movies stopped being hits, she became the butt of jokes.
Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault and suspended for six games (later reduced to four), but as long as he produced and kept winning, the fans didn’t give a shit. It goes on and on and on with the people basking in the national spotlight, and it’s no different with Ray Rice. When he showed up at Baltimore’s trainin I told her I love RC when my wife said I needed a hobby. When she explained I barely picked up my RC cars – I looked around and realized my new love is in RC planes. A sick Quanum Nova review I did is an example that I am becoming excited about it, and do have a lot of RC encounter . g camp and raced a child on the sideline, the fans in attendance actually gave him a standing ovation.
Think about that for a moment. Here’s a guy who was accused of physically assaulting his wife to the point of unconsciousness…yet the fans are treating him as though he’s the one who has been victimized. Yes, he has apologized and his wife has forgiven him, and that’s all well and good. But the standing ovation does nothing more than pointing out how much we worship and forgive stars – as long as they can help us vicariously find success.
2. We Focus on the Wrong Targets
Rice was not the only person to receive some serious backlash in this whole ordeal, either. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith drew some much deserved criticism for basically saying that, essentially, women sometimes are asking to be hit, and that they need to go out of their way to avoid provoking repeated actions. So in essence, he was blaming the victim. He’s been suspended for one whole week by ESPN for his caveman-esque comments, but that doesn’t wash the stink off of what he said, or the fact he’s given such a huge national platform.
Michelle Beadle, another ESPN employee and one of the more reasonable, level headed, and blunt sports reporters out there, took some pretty substantial issue with Smith’s comments. She went on Twitter, and said:
I was just forced to watch this morning’s First Take. A) I’ll never feel clean again B) I’m not aware that I can provoke my own beating.
Proving that it’s not just athletes and movie stars who have ardent, if insane supporters, as soon as news hit of Smith’s suspension the target for his awful comments, which again stemmed from a case of domestic violence, became BEADLE. I’m not going to quote all of the tweets directed at her, but to paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, the aftermath of Smith’s suspension showed that Twitter is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The comments haven’t stopped in the last 24 hours, either. Go ahead and search Twitter for Michelle Beadle and you, too, will feel the desperate need to shower upon viewing just how vile people are, and how tremendously out of whack their priorities and views can be.
3. Our Priorities Are Completely Out of Whack
Oh, did I mention this already? It’s certainly worth repeating. The standing ovation that Rice received after punching his wife, or the backlash Beadle is receiving for having the audacity to take offense to Smith’s comments that women are sometimes asking for assault are only two such examples.
One of the biggest, most egregious examples revolves around Aaron Hernandez. You remember him, right? I know I sure as hell do, since I was a proud fantasy owner who made sure to draft him for three straight seasons. Well, if you’re big into fantasy football as well, you’ll be happy to know that there are sites that are still listing him as a free agent and keeping his page up to date with all of the latest news surrounding his legal affairs. Going back to a year ago – and I’m sorry that I can’t find any of the links – one of the first things those same sites ran with was the fantasy impact his ARREST FOR MURDER would have on his fantasy value.
But it’s not just fantasy football that is impacted, of course. Gambling is another big one, and sure enough, after Hernandez was arrested for, again, FUCKING MURDER, the first priority in Vegas was to update how his circumstances would impact the odds of the Patriots winning the Super Bowl.
4. The Punishments Rarely Fit the Crime
This one isn’t really on us, as fans, but the mere fact that we let organizations like the NFL get away with shit like this has to infuriate us on at least some level, doesn’t it? Look at Ray Rice, for instance. He assaulted his wife, said he was sorry, and now he has to sit out a whopping two games. When an NFL executive was on Mike and Mike the other day, he was completely evasive and, frankly, embarrassed the league with his inability to explain how and why the NFL determines its punishments.
Meanwhile, we’ve got Josh Gordon to look at as another case where the punishment seems a little odd. Or hell, let’s look at former Syracuse football standout Tanard Jackson, whose career is basically done because he enjoys smoking weed. Marijuana is legal in two states, with more states likely following suit in the near future. Yet getting busted for smoking weed will apparently get you a heftier punishment than assaulting a human being.
Are you an idiot for violating the league’s substance abuse policy? Of course you are! You’re giving up the chance at potentially millions of dollars because you like to toke. But in what world does it make sense for the league to be more lenient on wife beaters than on a guy who takes a hit from the bong every once in awhile?
Look, this goes beyond sports. We forgive celebrities for transgressions all the time, and don’t bat an eyelash when a movie star does a few hours of community service after getting a DUI while a normal person faces hefty fines, the loss of a license, and maybe even jail time for the exact same crime. We’ve sadly gotten to the point where we fully expect the rich and famous to be above the law, and not only that, we root them right the hell on more often than not, as long as they keep churning out movies we love or helping our favorite teams win championships.
There’s no remedy for this horrible trend. It’s not exactly new, after all. Did you know that after Errol Flynn was caught having an affair with a 15 year old girl, his next few movies absolutely killed at the box office? We’re a society that loves trainwrecks, and is willing to forgive them because we can rubberneck as we pass them, hoping to get a glimpse at a disaster in the making. It doesn’t come as any surprise that we’re totally okay with letting our heroes off the hook.
It doesn’t mean we have to like that trend, though.