Saturday, September 26, 2009

Out of Control Athletes

My husband and I are season ticket holders for both men's and women's basketball at Binghamton University 20 miles north of us in NY. It's a Division I team that last season got as far as the NCAA tournament. Very exciting, even though our first game there was against Duke so it was also our last game in the tournament.

Our only problem with the team has been disciplinary issues with some of the stars of the team, young men recruited and given a second chance by our coach to show their talents and try to straighten out their lives. We were concerned about the behavior of some of them, and now the chickens have come home to roost. Six of the best players and upcoming players of the men's team have been booted out for criminal problems, attitude, and just plain troublemaking.

Lois DeFleur, president of the university and #1 basketball fan, finally put her foot down and rightly so. She called in the AD and told him she would not tolerate any more problems from the men's team. I guess the AD and the head coach were sick and tired of babysitting too, because the axe fell almost immediately.

You know, this isn't just a problem at BU. What is it with college and professional athletes across the country? Their enormous egos and belief that they don't have to live by the same rules as the rest of us poor schmucks is threatening to make me a FORMER sports fan. I've loved sports all my life (not participating since I grew up in the 40s and 50s when young ladies didn't do those things) but watching others. My mother and mother-in-law were also sports fans but the men in the families weren't so much. Strange I guess, but that's the way it is.

I'm already not watching baseball much because I'm tired of the steroids scandals and tantrums. I never watch professional basketball because they just don't play as a team anymore. Everything is me, me, me! College sports are my favorite and I still have hope, but I believe every college and university needs to clean house like BU is doing. We don't need any more athletes with mouths bigger than their talents, and with complete disregard for the law. Michael Vick is surprised he isn't coming back as a starting QB? Plaxico Burress is upset because his fellow inmates in prison aren't suitably impressed with him? T.O. has bounced from team to team because he can't keep his mouth shut? These are all football because it's football season, but basketball is soon to follow with its own examples.

I think the answer is to stop treating high school and college athletes like they are so special that they don't have to live by the rules. We baby them and help them get by with things, and then we wonder why they still act like babies when they are grown men making millions. The athlete who lives his life as a good person is so rare as to be newsworthy, on the rare occasion when the media isn't busy reporting on the foibles and crimes of the rest. This must change. Actually fan behavior needs to change too but that's a topic for another day.

In short, congratulations to Lois DeFleur for standing up for what's right. We will support her through this necessarily "building" year and in the future. Although last year was fun, we prefer to have a team we can really be proud of.

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