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article imageOp-Ed: Professional sports a privilege, not a right

By Scott Gehrke     Dec 19, 2011 in Sports
Chicago - Playing professional sports is a privilege not a right. Today, too many athletes take this axiom for granted. There is no wonder why so many athletes fall.
Everyday we wake up and get ready to go to work. We work because we have to. In order to provide for our children, put food on the table, clothes on our backs and pay our bills, we have to earn an income. Now while most people would probably say that they are unhappy in the line of work they do, they do it anyway. And if someone were to conduct a poll asking the question what else would they rather do in life other than what they already do, most would say they would like to be an actor or an athlete. The reason being of course is the fame and fortune that comes with it. And it would be fair to say that most of us have played some form of organized sports at some point in our lives.
But for a select few, they make it to the pros. They have dedicated their lives and have made sacrifices to get to the pinnacle of their sport. They are talented, gifted and even charismatic. They train hours each day and practically year round honing their skills so that one day they too may play at the professional level.
Once they get there though, the demands become every greater. There is always someone behind them looking for their shot at glory. Athletes are often criticized for making a bad play or benched for not giving 100%. They are always in the spotlight whether they want it or not. Some players enjoy long and fruitful careers while others remain for only a year or maybe two. Still others have the weight of the world on their shoulders, being heralded as the next great player. And if they do not live up to those expectations, they fizzle out into the unknown. There are countless players that fit these descriptions, too numerous to mention.
The notion that playing professional sports is a privilege and not a right, is an axiom that too many of today's athletes take for granted. They get caught up in making money and enjoying the fame that comes with being an athlete, that they forget how they got there. They become selfish and ego maniacs that have not only lost the thrill and excitement for the game they play, but they also forget to ackowledge how they got there.
This has never been more evident than in recent years in professional sports. Now while I love sports and follow it daily, cheer for my hometown teams in Chicago and talk sports on the radio and in my articles, I have grown accustomed to being let down by issues affecting the sports that we all love. It seems like every week, we read stories or watch the sports being reported on television that puts a black eye on the athletes, coaches, administrators and the sports venue themselves.
In the news, we learned from ESPN 1000 in Chicago's Michael C. Wright and Jeff Dickerson(see footnote #1), that Chicago Bear wide receiver Sam Hurd was arrested on federal drug charges. If the charges hold and he is found guilty, he could face nearly 40 years in jail and millions of dollars in fines. One of baseball fans favorite players Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, has tested positive for performance enhancement drugs(see footnote #2). Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is being held on charges of sexual abuse on young boys(see footnote #3). We see university sports programs get taken down for NCAA rules violations like Ohio State, Miami and USC. Former players like Dwight Gooden and Steve Howe ruin their careers by using drugs. Players in the NFL getting fined and suspended for illegal hits (see my article on Digital Journal "Violence in Sports"). Pete Rose, one of the greatest players in the history of baseball is banned for life and can never be inducted into the Hall-of-Fame for his actions as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
As for this year, we saw not one but two work stoppages in professional sports. The NFL and NBA both were in jeopardy of losing a part or all of their seasons, all because of money. All four sports have endured the fallout of labor strikes and lock outs and it takes years sometimes for the sport to recover. In 1994, MLB went on strike just weeks before the end of the regular season. The end result was no World Series. It took four years for baseball to recover. The 2004-05 NHL season was lost to a lock-out. Some would argue that they have never recovered from that.
Now while it has always been known that labor strikes are a part of our society and disputes happen all over the world, yes even in Hollwyood, some are actually needed to improve work conditions or pay equity. But It is difficult for most of us to wrap our arms around players and owners arguing over money. The statement of the year is probably this: "It's hard for us to to watch millionaires arguing with billionaires."
So many issues drown out the enjoyment and pleasure of the sports we watch. Labor, drugs, violations of rules and ethics and unnecessary violence are unfortunate by-products of today's athletes and sports. Is it really because today's athletes have forgotten why they are there? Playing professional sports is privilege not a right. Right?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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