When Your Heroes Turn Out to be Assholes
I love sports as much as the next guy, but I don’t remember the last time I wrote about sports two weeks in a row in TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less. But then Brett Favre had to go and be the ultimate douche that he really is, and I realized that he had to be the subject of the column this week. Turns out Brett Favre was part of a scheme that channeled $5 million intended for Mississippi welfare recipients to build a volleyball court at the University of Southern Mississippi where, wait for it…., Favre went to college, and where, oh this part is even better, his daughter had just started playing college volleyball. I had always liked Favre as a player- found his cavalier, go-for-broke boyishness to be endearing, but then he had to go stealing from state welfare funds to build a volleyball stadium for his daughter. Sometimes your sports heroes fail to live up to who you want them to be. Sometimes they just plain turn out to be assholes.
And in Favre’s case, he definitely turned out to be the latter. I might have been concerned about writing something so declarative as the previous paragraph without a judicial verdict of some sort attesting to Favre’s guilt, but this nincompoop actually sent text messages that read, “If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?” Um yeah Brett, there is. It’s called a text message, and they stay as a record on your phone even after you have deleted them. You know, like the one you’re sending right now. Seems our boy Brett is just as stupid as he is corrupt. You’d think he would have learned to be a bit more careful with his texting, what with his 2008 scandal where he allegedly sent dick pics to an unsuspecting game-day hostess working for the Jets, which does make you wonder- Which is worse, getting dick pics from Brett Favre or working for the New York Jets? As a quick aside here, let me just take a moment to give all you young men out there a little Craigers PSA- do NOT send dick pics to women unless explicitly requested to do so. Women do not want pictures of penises they are not currently sleeping with, and while I know you don’t want to believe this, seeing your penis, whatever size or shape it may be, is not going to entice them into sleeping with you. But let’s get back to the point at hand. Brett Favre is, well, a dick.
So what are we to do when the person we root for on Sundays turns out to be an absolute jerk every other day of the week? How does one reconcile their sports fandom with a moral code that makes one feel queasy? The fact is that you don’t.
In case I haven’t told you, my son is a huge Packers fan. He’s far too young to remember Favre in a Packers uniform, but he’s had a poster of Aaron Rodgers in his room since he was 8. And while Rodgers has never sent dick pics or stolen money from welfare recipients, that we know of, he is hardly a likable guy. Dismissive and abrasive in interviews, even when his team wins, Rodgers lacks the humility or charisma that would render him even mildly enjoyable. But then 2021 rolled around and Rodgers deliberately misled the media about his vaccination status and put his teammates and other NFL personnel at risk.
And so about a month ago, my son saw him giving an interview with his new haircut that makes him look like some form of anime reject going through a personal identity crisis and turned to me and said, “I don’t know if I can root for him anymore. He is an amazing quarterback, but he’s just not a good person.”
Because in the end, the ability to throw a football and being a decent human being do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. This is not to suggest that they are mutually exclusive either. It is certainly possible to be both a good quarterback and a good human being, but the fact is that there really is no correlation between the two whatsoever. Which brings us to the question of why we root for particular sports teams in the first place.
The fact is that most of us just end up cheering for the sports team from our local geographical area. I grew up in Connecticut, which is why I love the Red Sox. And if you grew up somewhere near Cleveland, well, you have either endured years of hardship as a Browns fan or voluntarily submitted to the witness relocation program so that you could start your life over and select another team without anyone ever knowing. It’s not like we can seriously suggest that people from one area of the country are morally superior to any other. Except perhaps for Detroit- those people just plain suck.
Coaches often tell their players to play for the name on the front of the jersey rather than the one on the back, that sports is about the team, not the individual. In some ways, so is fandom. We root for the team to do well, not an individual. Yes, the individual who throws our touchdowns or scores our goals may be a jerk, but we are not tacitly supporting who they are as a person but in how their athletic accomplishments contribute to the larger team goals of wins over losses. Separating the two allows us to like the performance without liking the individual athlete.
But it is also for this very reason that athletes should not be our kids’ role models in the first place. As we suggested earlier, being able to hurl a football 60 yards or dunk a basketball has no correlation whatsoever with being a good human being, so make sure your kids can delineate the difference between the two. Teach them to be more discerning in the values they aspire to. Get them to see that the real heroes are the teachers who stay after school to help kids with homework, the nurses who work long shifts to care for others, and parents who take time to throw the football with their kids in the backyard. And then maybe- just maybe- they won’t grow up to send dick pics to strangers or steal welfare money from the state.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com