Had enough of boastful athletes?

I think I’ve figure out why so many athletes strut.  It looks so unmanly.  It’s me-ism at its worst.

A defensive end makes a sack.  He then separates himself from the rest of his teammates in order to celebrate.  In a recent Thursday Night Game, Oakland was leading Kansas City in the final minute.  A Raider lineman made a sack.  He then ran so far downfield, separating himself from his teammates in order to celebrate, he was still behind the other team’s backfield when the next play was set to begin.  He was THAT far downfield prancing around.  An alert teammate called for a time-out, else the penalty would have given Kansas City another chance at a field goal.

It almost cost his team the game.

Last night there WAS a player whose celebrating DID cost his team the game.

East Carolina was leading the University of Central Florida 30-26.  UCF had the ball on the 50,  Time remained for only one more play.  The UCF quarterback heaved a long, high, arching pass to the end zone.  Only one wide receiver was under the ball.  THREE defenders were tracking the long arc of the pass.  Unbelievably, the receiver came out of the pack with the ball–and the win.  Also unbelievably, one of the defenders had already begun unbuckling the straps on his helmet–while the ball was still in the air!

Watch the re-play.  It’s all over the web today.  A defender is pulling the straps from his helmet while the play is still undetermined.

That kind of unbuckling precedes a tossing of the helmet.  This player was so eager to boast, he didn’t even wait for the play to end.

Likewise, it happens so often that an NFL player on a break-away run spikes the ball BEFORE getting into the end zone.  It happens so often–it isn’t enough to google “player spikes ball prematurely” if you want to see it.  You have to specify which game–because there’s a whole lineup card of incidents from this year and previous years.

Why are players so eager to strut?  They sometimes cost their team a TD, let alone the game.

I think I’ve got it figured out.

It must be–they aren’t getting enough love.

We live in an age of publicity.  Whatever a person does can get publicized nation-wide.  Players are going for it.  All that they must do to isolate themselves for the spotlight, they’re doing it.

A few years ago, when Deion Sanders was playing for San Francisco, the 49ers travelled to Atlanta.  Deion previously played for the Falcons.  The team had success with him on the field.  Now he was returning to Atlanta–and its newly built stadium, the Georgia Dome.  At a press conference a day before the game, Deion Sanders–chin thrust out–boasted, “I BUILT this, and this is MY house!”

I used to be a sports writer.  I wish I were attending that press conference.  My hand would have gone up.  “Mr. Sanders, are you worried that you’re not getting enough attention?”

It has been said–and I agree–that an athlete needs a healthy ego in order to do well.  The former General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates went so far as to say an athlete needs a “super-ego.”  But Joe L. Brown was talking about Roberto Clemente.  And we never saw Clemente celebrate all by himself–separating himself from teammates.  Look at the video of Clemente when he got his 3000th hit at Three Rivers Stadium at the end of the 1972 season.  You don’t see him dancing around or picking up the base and holding it over his head.  Rather, he is a portrait of dignity.

I used to coach a kids’ baseball team when I lived near Madison, Wisconsin.  One player, a 10-year-old who wasn’t all that good, used to lift his arms in the “raise the roof ” gesture any time he got on base. I would always hold back from saying something.  But one time I finally decided to speak up. He had been doing the “raise the roof” on second base.  The inning ended.  He came walking off the field (WALKING, mind you.  This kid wasn’t the sort of player to RUN on & off the field.)  Before he reached the bench, I intercepted him.  I said, “The only players who need to cheer for themselves are the ones who think nobody else is cheering for them.  If you do something good, others will cheer for you.  If you have to cheer for yourself, It means you think nobody else is.”  Then I told him, “Figure out which type of player you want to be.”


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