As fans, we are constantly talking about the modern athlete’s toughness. A running back is physically tough if he plays on a bum ankle. Basketball players are mentally tough when they hit free throws late in the fourth quarter. Tyler Hansbrough is just tough. There are even entire articles written purely about toughness.
We are fascinated with the act of being tough. It’s the quality of the everyman. The pros have God-given talent. The pros have height. The pros have quickness and the pros have that sixth sense. They have so many qualities that the rest of us can never hope to attain, but everybody can be tough.
Maybe that’s the reason we are obsessed with it. We’ve played hurt, we’ve triumphed and we‘ve failed. We can relate to clutch, and we can relate to choke.
I would like to start seeing fans exhibit the same toughness that they crave in their athletes. Take the JC Romero incident. A fan heckled a player and was told to “shut the f*** up”, when the fan continued to heckle he was allegedly pushed. Clearly Romero should have exercised some restraint, but the fan is just as guilty. And here’s the kicker, after berating another man to his face and subsequently getting a nudge the guy was “shocked”.
There is a lot of talk these days about the integrity of sport being lost in things like steroids, big contracts and crooked referees. The problem highlighted in this incident is something entirely different, it is the Regular Joe trying to make a dishonest dollar by milking an athlete’s celebrity. The guy who is pressing charges on JC Romero is just as bad as Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Tim Donaghy.
Treat athletes with respect, and maybe they will start treating the game with respect. The next time an athlete pushes you when you are in his face, or the next time Glenn Davis inadvertently bumps you as he celebrates the biggest shot of his career, just keep your mouth shut.
Athletes are people, not banks.