Sports are one of the biggest phenomena to grace our finest television screens across the country. They started out as the majority of programming as far back as the 1940s and ‘50s, when the target audience of TV sellers was generally male. Now, the biggest single television event of the year is the Super Bowl. Some of the richest and most successful people in the country are professional athletes. But what makes sports an even more entertaining and provocative medium is that they are filled with people who, believe it or not, are just like you and me in that they are just as susceptible to doing some pretty stupid stuff from time to time. It’s the sense of realism that we get by seeing these larger-than-life superstars in less than desirable situations that almost makes the entire idea of sports one big reality TV show where everyone’s the star and no one’s really happy.
Firstly, there is the ever-popular issue of the replacement referees in the NFL. If you were unaware of the plight of the ref to this point, allow me to quickly fill you in. Refs work part-time, and most of them have other jobs than making awkward signals at crowds of thousands of people every Sunday. Apparently, just like the players in the NFL, refs too can go on strike to demand more money and better rights.
Any idiot who’s ever seen a football game can tell you that being a ref isn’t that hard of a position, and would readily step up to take the place of someone who greedily wants more money to do it. And, not to put it so harshly, the NFL has hired from below the level of refereeing talent than they normally would have due to the lockout and contractual obligations of referees at the college level. I’m not saying that they aren’t fit to do the job, but I will say that making the jump from the Lingerie Football League to the National Football League obviously poses some challenges.
And while the bad is to be expected – the games throughout the first two weeks of the regular season are on average several minutes longer – there are also some bright spots to be talked about, like the week one challenge rate being upheld at its highest ever percentage even amongst regular referees. You could also say something about Shannon Eastin, the first female referee in the NFL. Is this groundbreaking event caused by problems reaching a collective bargaining agreement really just affirmative action? I’d say it’s at least a step in the right direction, especially since now Ed “Biceps” Hochuli won’t be the only one wearing a really tight shirt anymore.
There’s also a lot of negative scrutiny that gets placed on the individuals in this spotlight. In some cases, the actions of one person can be enough to drag an entire organization through the dirt. Most recently, as of this Monday, there have been a few notable incidents. Hours after helping the Atlanta Falcons to a Monday Night Football victory, 9-year veteran running back Michael Turner was arrested on DUI charges after being stopped for reportedly going 97 mph in a 65 mph zone.
Turner is not the first, nor do I expect him to be the last, athlete to be arrested for drinking and driving. The NFL’s current policy on such incidents is to wait until all official court proceedings have been completed, so Turner, along with numerous other offenders, likely will not see punishment handed down from commissioner Roger Goodell until after the season is over.
The MLB, however, is often times much swifter in issuing justice in the cases of players acting out. The most recent noteworthy event involved Toronto Blue Jays’ shortstop Yunel Escobar wearing what is being perceived as a homophobic slur during a game on Monday. The phrase, “Tu ere maricon,” was written on the black eye-strips that players commonly wear to shield their eyes from sunlight. The MLB has been known to suspend players multiple games for less than questionable actions both on and off the field.
Players with trouble controlling themselves are just an interesting facet of the subplot that keeps the wide world of sports one of the nation’s leading television programming options. The narrative can very easily encompass the majority of the focus of the viewer nowadays. This aspect is just one of many that draws much publicity to sporting events as a show. Publicity often comes from the provocative nature of the show, and sports are no exception. If you ever start to think that a sport can become dull, just remember that the people involved are real people, and winning really just isn’t everything, all things considered.