There was a time when the ESPN show “SportsCenter” featured the best highlights of the day from the world of sports, as a way for fans to keep tabs on all the action they missed throughout the day. Today, on SportsCenter and similar programs, you are more likely to see news about the things taking place off the field, rather than the play on the field.
In recent weeks, the headlines have been dominated by the likes of MLB’s Alex Rodriguez and former NFL star Aaron Hernandez. Rodriguez is facing one of the longest suspensions in baseball history after he and a number of other players were connected to Biogenesis, a clinic that issued illegal performance enhancing drugs to professional athletes.
Meanwhile, Hernandez is currently in jail facing murder charges for the death of 27 year-old Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player from Connecticut. With all of the scandals that have been in the news recently, it is becoming hard to remember why we even enjoy sports in the first place.
It is not as if now is the first time we have seen star athletes making news for their off the field antics. We have seen it happen throughout the history of sports.
However, in today’s society, athletes are being watched under an intense social microscope at all times. While the media have an obligation to report news, it seems unnecessary to cover these scandals, especially at the expense of showing the action that it is taking place on the field.
For example, take Texas A&M football star Johnny Manziel. He has dominated the headlines leading up to the season due to a variety of stories about his extracurricular activities, most recently for allegedly being paid by a broker to sign large amounts of memorabilia, which would violate National Collegiate Athletic Assosciation (NCAA) rules. Amidst the non-stop coverage of celebrities Manziel has been spotted with, and the bars he is partying in, the media have totally bypassed covering the hype and excitement of what promises to be a great college football season.
The media are not entirely to blame for the onslaught of off-the-field news. In our social media-driven culture, fans are demanding more and more information. They want to know what star players are doing at all hours of the day, and the media have been happy to oblige.
But is it all really necessary? Isn’t the beauty of sports the fact that you can turn on a game for a couple of hours at the end of a long day just as a simple form of entertainment?
For the eternal optimists like myself, there is some proof that there is more left to competitive sports than just criminal, cheating, money hungry athletes. In fact, over the past few months, it has become increasingly obvious to me that student athletes right here at Virginia Wesleyan embody all the qualities we admire in athletes.
Marlin athletes are not playing with the promise of earning a major professional contract. In fact, as NCAA Division III athletes, they are not even playing for an athletic scholarship. However, simply having the opportunity to continue their athletic career and be part of a team is incentive enough to work hard on the field and in the classroom.
In addition to their hard work during the season, one walk around campus during the summer months will make it clear that Marlin athletes carry themselves with class off the field as well. Virginia Wesleyan hosts a number of day camps throughout the summer, and they are usually filled with volunteers from various sports teams.
Odds are we will not be seeing many of these athletes on shows like SportsCenter in the near future. Then again, considering the stories that are making headlines these days, I do not think we want to see them on there anyway.