Monkey See, Monkey Do: Sports Are a Microcosm of Life in the Real World

Kevin Fiddler@@KFiddsContributor IOctober 12, 2011

Competition has become less about exceptionalism and more about inclusion.
Competition has become less about exceptionalism and more about inclusion.Rob Carr/Getty Images

When I was a child, I can remember a few of my little league coaches preaching the many facets of real life and how they pertain to the great game of baseball.

Hustle, persistence, team work and mental toughness were all requirements for success on and off the field.

Of course, in my my youth, I merely glossed over the countless lessons and parallels that could be made between surviving the rigors of youth and the dangers of the real world.

But now, as I stand back and observe the world in which we live in today, and see our society on full display thanks to the information age, it is quite simple to see how the two most definitely correlate.

We act the same way in life as we do in the competitive arena, displaying character, effort, concern and all the countless traits that make us human.

One needs only to spend a half hour watching reality television these days to see how far our great society has fallen, but the real shining example can be found on the competitive fields around the nation. Observing the lack of attention to detail and the failure of many young athletes to adapt to the rigors of higher level competition, exposes the society we have become.

Many of the players today are walking examples of a society that has birthed soft, overly sensitive athletes who have been told for years that total inclusion, not excellence, was best when it came to competitive sports.

This current crop of athletes is part of the generation that learned to play in leagues where score was no longer kept to protect the losing team's feelings. Physical contact and assertive play is banned altogether to protect from any semblance of injury.

These modern young players aren't equipped with the persevering spirit that came with the generations before.

Personally, I feel—as a society—that we have exponentially fallen once we peaked with the "greatest generation" following World War II.

Concern for feelings has replaced discipline, and the idea that "everyone plays" has overtaken the idea that life isn't always fair and that the cream rises to the top.

Gone are the days when a coach like Vince Lombardi or Bobby Knight could drive their players to excellence, while also instilling the fear of God within them if they fail to give 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time.

Each passing year, coaches find themselves in a revolving carousel of employment as they crack under the pressure of this softly-evolving movement.

Making player cuts has become less about keeping the players who have earned the right to join the roster, and more about fear of litigation from disgruntled parents who bring suit when their child is not one of the chosen few.

Fair roster management and coaches decisions have been replaced with obsessed parents who fail to see the reasoning, no matter the explanation. Their child has been trained to see the world as a place where skill is not as important a factor in success. 

It has been replaced by the protection of one's feelings, continually softening the generations that follow. 

Competing has become a right, not a privilege.

Now, this doesn't mean we are doomed, but it is a commentary on society as a whole. More people today look to others to help them instead of getting what they need on their own accord.

Like a lineup full of players only looking to draw walks, not contribute the clutch single, we've become a generation of emotional cripples. We look to the person next to us to do the job we could so easily do ourselves if we had the guts to try.

With every epic success comes the flip side of that coin: the potential for epic failure.

For the greatest of athletes, it was that very risk that ignited the fire within.

No safety net, no protection. Just them and their goal.

Today, it seems like that goal has been enlarged and supported with protective bumpers. American Exceptionalism has been replaced with American Averageism, watering down the excellence that used to permeate throughout sports.

One has to wonder how long until this trend in sports will translate into the mainstream of our society, and more so, at what cost will these crusades for Averageism be paid.