This question has been on my mind for a while now, but with the media circus of this week’s Superbowl Media days, it seems a good time to bring up for discussion.
What do we really expect of our athletes? Do we want the Richard Sherman’s declaring their strength and skill (and the ensuing “cute” youtubes of kids emulating his “speech”) or the Marshawn Lynch/Bill Belichick one-word answer and rolled eyes? Do we want the Manning family generational stories? Are they really role models? And when you get right down to it, don’t we treat our athletes the same way the Roman masses treated the gladiators?
Gladiators, according to the histories I’ve read, were cheered in their victories, ridiculed and/or quickly forgotten in their defeats, the difference being our athletes aren’t killed, but rather toddle off to join the media or to fade into obscurity. We honor some with the label of HOFer and wear their jerseys years after they’ve stopped playing. Others we forget, even to the point of not remembering their name when they appear on a stage somewhere. Some of these athletes have given their lives for the sport; no one can argue that Junior Seau and the 11 others who have committed suicide recently didn’t sacrifice for the game.
So enter the gladiators today and may the best team win. We’ll see if the officials need to ticky-tak the game with constant flags or if the two teams can play a clean, competitive game. Because despite the arguments about role models and smack talk, I think that’s what all of us really want, a good competitive game without the flags and interference of the officials.