The Self-Righteousness of Sports Fans

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Hey, guys,

The athlete-as-child theory is an interesting one, Patrick, and the accuracy there makes me a little bit uncomfortable. In professional sports, the dynamic behind both organizational discipline and our armchair approval (or, at least, heightened interest) it tends to elicit isn't solely evocative of a parent-child relationship. That element's there, sure, but the moral policing of adults is entirely different from sending a kid to his room because he broke a vase.

I think Stevie Johnson's crashing Jet act against New York was silly and misguided—especially as it ended up hurting his team in the long run--but it's nothing new, and it shouldn't warrant full-on lectures from the broadcast booth. In a lot of ways, the TD dance has—popcorn included—has become a part of the professional game precisely because networks like Costas's NBC tape those celebrations and broadcast them (and replay them) to the nation. There's a hypocrisy there that is, for me, a little too much to stomach.

I guess I'd say that the "darndest things" act-and-punishment routine in sports is different from the parent-child relationship because often, it involves an older, white male in a position of power telling a younger person of color how he or she should have behaved and then punishing him for it. Back in September, Serena Williams yelled at a line judge and everyone reacted as if nothing so outrageous had ever happened before. It had, actually, countless times—we just don't usually see it from a muscular black woman. And this week, I learned that Homer Jones, the man who Costas praises for inventing the touchdown spike in 1965 with a "simple, elegant punctuation," only spiked the ball that day because there was a league fine for tossing it into the stands. Had he gotten lost in the moment and thrown it anyway, he'd probably be another ne'er-do-well in Costas's book. Those rules are necessary for a lot of sound reasons, but they also feed the constant march of disapproval that comes after they're broken, and that's as much a part of the games we watch as the touchdown that came before it. It's strange to me that the particular social dynamic of that march isn't often commented upon.

What do you think, Jake? How do you handle sports' moral police force?

–Emma

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Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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