Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times is around 60 years-old but it was just last Saturday that he lost his innocence. At least that’s what I’m taking from his column today. Because if you take it at face value it says that after nearly 40 years of writing and reporting, the the Ryan Braun drug thing is what has finally made him realize that sports are awful and corrupt:
The 2011 MVP of Major League Baseball testing positive for synthetic testosterone might be the crisp cherry atop the mushroom cloud of fraud and cynicism and toxic greed that once was good ol’ sport … Nobody is saying that sports were ever pure. At least you won’t get that from this corner. Heck, I’m not sure David’s method for beating Goliath was sanctioned by the rules. But sport of the last 20 or so years doesn’t appear to have even a vestige of the morality or glorious lesson-learning that old sport seemed to have.
And yes, there is blame to be spread around. Telander blames “TV, the Internet, the multiheaded beast known as ESPN, even Twitter” for this horrible mess. For the lack of heroes that he believes once existed among athletes. For the loss of morality he thinks existed. To which I’d say, on what basis does Telander believe that good ol’ sport ever had those things to begin with?
From racism to violence to cheating to drink to drugs to greed to misogyny to any other vice you can name, it has always existed in sports. Always. Because it has always existed in society and sports is no greater than society in any material respect. Athletes are human beings and human beings are flawed and those flaws lead all of the ills Telander cites in his column. They always have. The only difference: it gets reported more today than it did in the 1930s or whenever.
Is Telander simply unaware of this? Or is his real beef that, because the way the world works, he is now incapable of being unaware?