A perfect example of this is professional sports. The most recent story which is provoking reaction across the web is that Tom Brady may be out for the entire NFL season after the New England Patriots quarterback suffered a significant knee injury during yesterday's 17-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Brady hasn't missed a start since taking over for Drew Bledsoe in Game 2 of the 2001 NFL Season. After the Spygate fiasco last year, I shared my thoughts on the NFL, the media, and 99.9% of the fans in the league who love the idea of parity because it mirrors what they want in their own lives: forced equality so no one is overly successful, which would highlight the shortcomings of certain individuals.
To recap, the Patriots' coach was caught taping defensive signals from a sideline, which is a violation of NFL rules. The media cried "cheaters!" even before most Patriots' fans realized what was going on. The hype ensued, and for the rest of the season, the Patriots' had a chip on their shoulder - winning every game, some by large margins, before eventually losing in the Super Bowl - due to the fact that everyone wanted to jump on the back of a championship team and bring them down to everyone else's level.
Few things to highlight here, as I did in my original post:
- Former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson admitted to sending personnel in to opposing head coach's hotel rooms the day they checked out to search through trash barrels for playbooks or play sheets
- Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher defended Belichick, as did the entire Steelers organization
- Former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards didn't believe there was a big fuss to be made over a tape of a defensive signal
- St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz had said he wasn't really interested in whether or not a Patriots' tape of a walkthrough of their practice before Super Bowl XXXVI existed, only that if it did, it would be a "bit disappointing"
Seeing a trend yet? NFL coaches live in their offices and study for hours, trying every which way they can to get an edge over other teams. Because Bill Belichick doesn't like the media very much and is generally not very personable as a football coach, people wanted to bring him down because of his success. As a result, the herd saw an opportunity to pounce once they were caught breaking a taping rule, and suddenly the floodgates opened. The media even found an idiot golf pro in Hawaii willing to make up stories so he could get his fifteen minutes of fame.
Fast forward to May of 2008. Finally, the Patriots are cleared of charges that they taped a Super Bowl practice walk through, and we can finally move on - right? Wrong. Still, bitterness exists from the crowd, and still, they insist on labeling the organization "cheaters" so they have something to feel good about when the Patriots come into town and roll over their team.
Now it's Game 1 of the NFL season. Brady drops back to pass and goes down with a knee injury. All the bitter fans from the rest of the country love that Brady is likely out for the season because they can start shouting about "karma", "just desserts", and the like.
So why have I decided I'm done with professional sports? Everything sports-related is hyped and melodramatized to a ridiculous degree, giving fodder to the herd that wants everyone down at their level. Television coverage, internet coverage; it all focuses on the individual when the Patriots were always about team. They weren't a media-friendly organization and likely won't be one in the future. Yet they set a shining example of what an NFL team should do, with a misstep along the way being blown way out of proportion and being the unfortunate cross to bear for the rest of Belichick's tenure as head coach.
The last year or so of following professional sports has taught me a lot about the modern day fanbase and media. Instead of looking toward the fans as an excuse for following the sport, now I find most of them even more reprehensible than the billionaire owners who insist on public funds for infrastructure to keep teams in certain cities, and moreso than players who make way too much money and are in it for themselves instead of the team. I should have learned that lesson a long time ago, but when you're brought up following sports in New England or New York, it can be tough to separate sports from one's life. I'm just about there.