I was having an interesting discussion with my roommate tonight about athletes we love and those we love to hate. As we began to talk a couple of names kept springing up, Peyton Manning and Sidney Crosby. Most notably my roommate expressed distaste for both players for being "soft" and that they were too protected by their prospective leagues.
While I believe there is something to star athletes too often being overprotected by their leagues/coaches, is this really necessarily a bad thing? After all stars are who we most often tune in to watch and from a personal investment standpoint aren't sports leagues and athletes better served by keeping their players/themselves as healthy as possible? Even if that means they will be labeled as "soft". Is there really something honorable about openly accepting large amounts of pain, especially if you seem to be winning by avoiding contact? And last I checked Crosby and Manning were doing alot of winning lately.
Now I realize that both hockey and football are violent sports and said violence is part of the reason we love them so much. It is also understandable to feel Manning and Crosby both hurt their teams chances of winning at points because they don't enjoy getting knocked around. But have we ever considered things from the athletes standpoint?
I mean look at the physical pounding guys like Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair took(and in Mcnabb's case, still take); and what do they have to show for it? Nothing, yes they have yours and my respect, but neither one of them have a championship ring. Not that I feel them taking a pounding is why they didn't win; but in the bigger picture how important is it as an athlete to openly accept that you will continuously be knocked to the ground by other athletes who are often much larger than you are
Don't get me wrong I've called my fair share of athletes soft in the past from Todd Pinkston to Pau Gasol, but as I get older I start to appreciate more the sheer amount of will force it takes to step onto an athletic arena and compete knowing you might get knocked around a bit.
That's not to say athletes are above reproach, even on this issues. I'm simply stating maybe we should take a minute to try and view things through the spectrum of an NHL/NFL player and try to understand why getting knocked on their butt might not be the most appealing thing in the world to them. Especially when other notables stars in their sport have succeeded by employing the exact same strategies they do to avoid getting hit and yet still managed to win.
Also remember that avoiding contact can often be the smartest thing to do in a situation, even though yes, it can at times cost your team a win. But sometimes winning isn't everything, some things can matter more to certain people like personal fulfillment and health. Or things we take for granted like being able to pick up our infant son and/or daughter without feeling an immense pain.
Granted such things are the cost of being a professional athlete, a fact many athletes openly accept and relish in. And there is something to be said about the logic of a person who doesn't like physical contact; yet chooses to play a sport like hockey or football, that are mostly based in physical contact. However, this does not negate that sometimes avoiding contact can be the smartest choice an athlete can make.
In conclusion are we sure being "soft" is a bad things and does it necessarily correlate to winning or being a good player? Especially given as sports talk radio host Bomani Jones so eloquently put it "If Micheal Jordan one of the greatest players and winners of all time, a man who has achieved every accomplishment humanely possible, yet seems no happier for it. Does winning really matter that much?"
Philip Powell is a contributor/writer for BleacherReport.com, he is also an obsessive fan. Some of his obsessions include movies, sports(NHL playoffs, NBA, NCAA football and women's basketball, NFL and MLB), and comics. He is currently a student at Central Michigan University studying journalism. He can be reached here or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org