Frankly, Emma, I think you guys are both missing the point. Sure, the athlete-as-child argument is compelling, and yes, an undercurrent of racism probably applies (though people loathed lily-white Christian Laettner for his dirty play, too). But the glee fans get from displaying their moral superiority compared to star athletes is about just that: superiority.
In many ways, it's a humbling, even humiliating experience to watch sports stars excel at their craft with what appears to be ease. Watching Johnson juke Darrelle Revis for a touchdown, or Blake Griffin soar above the rim, or Albert Pujols crush longball after longball can make the average fan feel pretty bad about themselves. That guy may just be playing a kid's game, but he's better at it than I'll ever be at anything.
Athletes also happen to make more money, achieve more fame and (for us male fans anyway) have a far, far easier time with women. So when we spy a chance to assert our moral superiority after an inappropriate touchdown dance or Suh Stomp, we take full advantage. Sure, that guy makes millions of dollars a year, signs autographs wherever he goes, is in perfect shape and has more athletic talent in his little finger than I do in my whole body. But he doesn't play the RIGHT way, not like me. I put on my hard hat and go to work every day without flash, just like a real American.
So we get to feel smug and superior, and that offsets the next time we see a picture of Middling Athlete X hooking up with Kim Kardashian.
Thoughts, Hampton? Are you disgusted with Costas and the moralizers?