Tag Archives: athletes

Sam Selection Special, But in a Perfect World it Wouldn’t Be

By Jason Menard,

Tonight, we were privy to what was, in my opinion, the best seventh-round selection of the NFL draft. And I hope we’ll have more of these moments in the near future so that, eventually, they won’t be special.

The video of Michael Sam receiving a phone call from the St. Louis Rams notifying him that he was their seventh-round selection is powerful, emotional, and uplifting. The image of his boyfriend, holding his hand and comforting Sam as the player struggles to regain his composure, is touching. And the kiss between the two was natural, organic, and will have ultimately no impact on his on-field abilities.

But the Sam situation was unnecessarily different. And it shows how far we have to go in this society until what should be considered normal actually is. Continue reading

Oh Canada: Accepting Our Olympic Mediocrity As Fans

By Jason Menard

We’re just days away from the start of the 22nd Olympic Winter Games and after hitting the slopes yesterday, I’m feeling pretty athletic (OK, I was tubing, not doing anything actually physical). Maybe that’s why my feelings towards the Olympics have somewhat softened.

OK, who am I trying to kid? The Olympic movement still hits me in the bowels, but I’ve realized that my real issue, like Sloan once sang, “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.Continue reading

Immature Sports World Will Keep Closet Closed, Miss Out on Opportunity to Do Good

By Jason Menard

Yesterday’s New York Times ran a story about Phoenix Suns’ president and chief executive Rick Welts, who recently decided to come out to the sporting world. What should be a “so what?” moment, unfortunately, won’t be. And, despite Welts’ bravery, true change won’t come about until an active player walks proudly out of the closet. Continue reading

Keep Your Heroes at Arm’s Length

By Jason Menard

The other day my wife was reading some magazine, which contained a quiz covering a wide variety of topics – including sports. And the question that stumped me the most? When she asked me which professional athlete I’d most like to have lunch with.

After a couple of days reflection, I may have to admit I lied.

The thing is, you ask most guys this question and the first names that come into their mind are Gabriella Sabatini, Maria Sharapova, or Anna Kournikova and, of course, trying to figure out whether Alyssa Milano’s recent baseball blog would qualify her for the event – and that invitation’s not being extended for their athletic abilities. And the smart man thinks before speaking and moves on past these passing fancies.

Then we give the answer we think we should. The quartet of athletes I chose are all worth of precognition: hockey heroes like Wayne Gretzky and the late Maurice Richard, and brave sporting pioneers like Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali.

In the end, however, there are no athletes that’d like to spend any time with. After all, it’s hard for anyone to live up to the expectation that we’ve placed upon them.

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting one of my hockey heroes, Guy Lafleur, earlier this year. It was at a charity event and a group of us, who were all French-speakers, engaged Guy in a long conversation. We did the embarrassing groupie things like having shirts signed and one of us – and I reserve my right to not comment on the grounds that it may incriminate me – even had The Flower record his outgoing answering cell phone machine message. Throughout the night he kept returning to talk – and we all walked away feeling the man measured up to the myth.

Unfortunately, that’s appears to be the exception to the rule.

Throughout my career writing for various on-line and print vehicles, I’ve had the opportunity – note the fact that I didn’t say pleasure – of meeting several professional and amateur athletes.

And all too often they’re boorish, rude, and obnoxious. Some appear to not value the importance of signing an autograph for a young child, or understand what their interaction with a fan can mean to that person.

However, athletes are really just regular people, with extraordinary jobs and paycheques. And, as regular people they are subject to the same foibles and insecurities as all the rest of us. Of course, as regular people with irregular bank accounts and unwavering customer affection, they can often find themselves in trouble. After all, for years they’ve been told they’re special and the rules don’t apply to them, so is it any surprise that the mix of loyalty, intoxication – both physical and spiritual, and an all-too-ready-to-please fan base ready to cover up any follies?

I’ve been out on the town with famous NHLers after a charity event – and saw some of the most pronounced displays of misogyny and lack of consideration for others; I’ve talked with an NHL legend who ended up going on a 10-minutes tirade about foreigners; and I’ve seen grown adults be as disrespectful and immature as six-year-old boys.

Again, I’m using awfully broad strokes with an awfully broad bust. Not all athletes in all sports are like this, but there’s no hard and fast way to know what lurks beneath that PR’d and polished demeanour.

So my real answer to the question of which athlete would I like to spend time with? None thanks.

I prefer a little romance and mystery in my life. Just as I never want to find out a how a magician perform a trick, so too do I not want to delve into an athlete’s true self. I’m much happier thinking of them as bigger than life. I’m far more content admiring their sills and abilities on their field of play.

And those activities are best done from afar.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Wrestling with Our Tolerance of Violence

By Jason Menard

Violent criminals, thieves, rapists, murderers. Generally, they’re the type of people that we abhor. That is, unless they’re willing to strap on a uniform or do a little metaphorical song and dance and entertain us.

Last night, WWE decided to broadcast a three-hour show, which was shown on The Score, dedicated to Chris Benoit. Benoit, a Canadian wrestler who has gone by many names: The Canadian Crippler, the Rabid Wolverine, and now — allegedly — murderer.

A three-hour tribute to a man who may have killed his wife and seven-year-old son? What message are we sending?

Why is it we’re so willing to look the other way when an athlete commits one of these transgressions? It’s safe to say that one of the most abhorrent acts that exists in our society is violence against women. Unfortunately, the list of present and past athletes who have been charged with sexual assaults and rapes is mind-bogglingly long. We’ve seen police blotters stained with the names of athletes accused of assaulting their spouses and partners. Yet, when it comes time to press charges, suddenly what was once a violent attack becomes nothing more than a mere understanding. Do you think the fact that a multi-year stint could seriously derail the financial gravy train has anything to do with that?

But fans can remember. It just seems that many choose not to. Allegiance to the home squad’s colours appears to supersede our disgust at the acts, both real and alleged. Many of these athletes continue to receive the cheers and accolades of fans while they’re on the field of play.

And we haven’t even discussed those involved in gun play, robbery — anything up to and including defecating in a co-ed’s laundry hamper! Yet, sports fans are willing to forgive and forget far too easily.

Maybe it’s time to reframe this discussion. It’s easy to distance yourself from the impact of an athlete assaulting a nameless, faceless woman. But what if it was your daughter? How would you feel as a parent listening to thousands upon thousands of fans cheering on a man who abused your little girl? How would your daughter feel? It would be like being raped again.

Leonard Little, once known as a defensive end for the St. Louis Rams, should better be known for the fact that he killed an innocent 47-year-old woman 1999 after getting behind the wheel of his vehicle while inebriated. And how contrite was Little? Six years later he was given two year’s probation for speeding — and the three field sobriety tests that he allegedly failed, combined with the fact that he refused to take a breathalyzer test, was shelved due to his lawyer’s insistence that police didn’t follow the proper procedures.

A few years back Ray Lewis and his posse were involved in an altercation that left two men dead. He admitted he lied to the police about his involvement, then he copped a plea, testified against his co-defendants, and is now revered throughout the league.

When either of these players do their sack dance, do you think the victims’ respective families feel that they’re dancing on those graves?

Are we that willing to forgive an athlete’s actions because we believe that the same violence and aggression that can drive an athlete to success can spill off the field of play? Or are we simply willing to win at all costs?

In the end, people will argue that the person’s off-field persona and activities have no impact on what their sporting legacy should be. And there is some merit to that. The notes of a beautiful symphony don’t change just because it’s suddenly come out that the composer was a murderer.

And there is always the notion of forgiving and forgetting. But by celebrating these athletes and holding them up as icons, are we not simply aiding and abetting future generations of criminals?

In the end, a tribute to a fine Canadian wrestler may have been appropriate one day, but not on the day he stands accused of murdering his wife and child.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved