Two New eBooks at Amazon Kindle!

FacebookMySpaceTwitterDiggDeliciousStumbleuponRSS Feed

In a very short time, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has become the new poster boy for poor sportsmanship in American professional sports. The National Basketball Association has repeatedly assessed him six-figure fines for his courtside actions, the latest coming during the NBA finals with the Miami Heat. Cuban was recently cited for "several acts of misconduct" that occurred during Dallas’s 101-100 overtime loss to the Miami Heat. He screams at officials, uses profanity in press conferences, and in general is known for his explosive fan behaviour as much as for his ownership of the team.

Since buying the team in 2000, Cuban has earned a business reputation as a turnaround specialist, taking a team in the doldrums and positioning it to double its revenues to $100 million in the past year. Meanwhile, his recent fine is his tenth in the 6 ½ years he’s owned the team and brings his total fines to about $1.5 million. He claims to have matched this fine total with similar donations to charities.

The question is, is Mark Cuban another example of what’s wrong with professional sports—too much greed, too many prima donna personalities, too much unsportsmanlike conduct? Or is he an otherwise nice guy who has shrewdly positioned his fan behaviour as part of a larger marketing scheme to put the Dallas Mavericks on the map? If that’s so it seems to be working. A million and one-half dollar fine doesn’t mean much in financial terms if it’s just one of the costs of running a business grossing one hundred million dollars.

But even if we give him the benefit of the doubt that he might be a decent person in his “other life” out of the arena, and even if we bought the idea that his antics are a part of some marketing scheme, his fan behaviour is a form of leadership pointing in the wrong direction. Unsportsmanlike conduct, cheating, drug abuse, and even violence are increasingly defining sports culture in America and globally. One more example of a person who misuses and abuses his notoriety and position is not something American sports culture needs. A “Bobby Knight” in the owner’s box isn’t very appealing.

While the Dallas Mavericks are winning, people will tolerate Cuban’s bad example. Some will even point to it as a supposedly necessary part of their winning organizational formula. But sometime, as it comes to all teams, the Dallas Mavericks will lose again, and when that happens people will not likely celebrate a choleric, fickle owner. His actions won’t be amusing. They’ll be annoying.

Cuban could learn to evidence passion and enthusiasm for the game and his team in a way that models sportsmanship for young players on his team and even younger players and fans across America alike. He could yell for his team, not against the other team or the referees. He could promote wearing team colors. He could literally wave their logo flag or dance with their mascot. He could compliment the opposing team, coaches, and owner during press conferences. He could do silly fan-atical things that otherwise do not illustrate negative attitudes, language, and actions.

He could do all this and more in a positive way and be even more effective in marketing his team than he has been as a shrewd businessman and poor fan. If he did these things, others in professional, intercollegiate, and interscholastic sports would respect him. Now they just think he’s a flash in the pan like other misbehaving sports figures have been in the past.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Sports culture suffered another blow in the past couple of weeks when high school quarterback standout, Mark Sanchez, now at the University of Southern California, was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a female student. This follows an NCAA investigation of whether the parents of Heisman Trophy winner, Reggie Bush, also of USC, gained some questionable housing advantage from a businessman supporter of the team. And this follows national attention focused on allegations of assault and rape against some members of the Duke University Lacrosse team.

Athletics at the intercollegiate and professional levels are microcosms of society. There are good people and not so good people who play sports. It’s not too surprising, therefore, to think that “bad things happen” from time to time. So the fact that these kinds of incidents occurred is nothing new in American sports, but then again the intensity and frequency of such incidents seems to be increasing

Negative fan behavior, near-violent parents, cheating prima donna athletes, belligerent coaches, and dishonest officials are all now a part of the American sports scene.

So how do we move sports culture back toward achievement and sportsmanship? It’s a complicated issue, one that’s rooted in the moral fabric or lack of it in culture at large, in elementary and secondary schools, and in the home.

There aren’t enough rules or honest officials to keep athletes from misbehaving on and especially off the court or field. It all goes back to each person’s moral code.

This is one reason I’m a fan of the NAIA’s “Champions of Character” program. In this intercollegiate organization of some 300 schools nationally, the focus is on winning and on character: Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Sportsmanship, and Servant Leadership.

Cornerstone University has experienced problems, sometimes serious problems, with student athletes. But the university draws lines of acceptable behavior for student athletes and coaches and, when necessary, holds accountable those who cross the line. Sports in this context is part of life, not isolated from it. A student or a coach wins when he or she is at their best as athletes and as people. Demanding that athletes behave properly is even more important than demanding that they perform their sport well.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

So-called professional wrestling has always perplexed me. It’s crass, it’s fake, and on top of all that, it’s fairly expensive to watch: tickets over $60. These big boys are athletic, no question, but World Wide Wrestling is more about schlock entertainment than it is competitive sports.

I suppose proponents could say that watching the “morality plays” of faux wrestling is no different than watching a drama on stage or at the cinema. I mean, the star didn’t really fall five stories without injury. The actors didn’t really shoot twelve people while nary a return shot nicked them. It’s just a story. It’s entertainment. Maybe the same is true for professional wrestling.

But somehow it still seems different to me. If Jim Carrey is guilty of over-acting at times, than pro wrestlers must really be over-the-top. They yell, scream, argue, look bug-eyed into the camera, “threaten” “opponents,” develop their bodies into grotesque caricatures of the real human body, prance around in ridiculous outfits, and in general demonstrate that while they have the gift of gab they do not have facile minds.

Why would people pay good money to watch other people act like fools? I don’t know. But then again, I like comedians—at least clean comedians, and they act like fools too. God made a big world and gave us a lot of room to move around in it. I’m just glad there’s enough room for me to move away from the WWF.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Whatever the truth is regarding recent rape allegations against members of the Duke University lacrosse team it will eventually come out. One way or the other, this incident is another example of the deterioration of the American sports culture.

Members of the Duke lacrosse team have been accused of gang rape, sodomy, and strangling by an African American exotic dancer. As yet no charges have been filed, but the 16-year team coach, Mike Pressler, has resigned, and the university president, Richard Brodhead, has cancelled the lacrosse team season.

This story has all the elements to attract national attention: sex, race, male chauvinism toward women, money, athletics, violence, alcohol abuse, titillation, it’s all here. If the allegations are true then a heinous crime has been committed against a defenseless woman. Add to this a violently threatening email written by one of the lacrosse team players who has since been suspended from school. Add to this a code of silence apparently being enacted by members of the team. Add to this the lack, so far, of any sense of moral obligation on the part of players not involved in the incident. They need to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—because it is right to do, because it will aid the victim, and because they need to protect themselves.

Years ago Charles Barkley famously said, “I ain’t no role model.” He was wrong then, and he would be wrong today. Athletes are privileged with talent, notoriety, and influence. When they use these gifts unwisely they harm us all, particularly those who are younger and look up to them.

I feel for Duke University, but when the truth is known, the guilty should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. No one should be above the law in this country, including student athletes.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Barry Bonds is on track to surpass Babe Ruth’s all-time homerun record of 715 four-baggers. Just a few more at bats, just a few more blasts and Bonds will have gone where no one but Hank Aaron has ever gone before. But does anyone really care?

Barry Bonds is just a human being like the rest of us, but he was blessed with major athletic talent. Sadly, for him, for professional baseball, and for us, he squandered it on steroids, human growth hormones, and a host of other chemical muscle enhancers. In other words, he cheated. Then he lied about it—repeatedly.

Bonds will never be heralded as a sports hero, and he has no one to blame but himself. He’d do well to take a Dale Carnegie course on how to win friends and influence people. Bonds is an irascible, unpleasant personality, angry at a world that gave him so much opportunity.

Pete Rose was the major league baseball disappointment of my youth. Barry Bonds is the disappointment of my middle age.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

You don’t have to watch the Olympics very long to understand why they’re the best reality show on television. Jaded sports pundits say the games are boring, but what do they know? The 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy have demonstrated once again why the games enjoy such enduring allure.

My family and I have avidly watched the games every cycle for thirty years, thrilling at victory and agonizing at defeat. There’s something incredibly pure and compelling about athletes giving their all for a chance to reach the international pinnacle of their sport.

The Olympics are a spectacle of pageantry, patriotism, world class talent, desire, discipline, and “heart.” The games are a showcase for athletically gifted individuals whose emotions are as real and as raw as the winter snow. Olympic athletes provide us with incredibly heroic efforts, not just to win the gold or even to honor the homeland, but to fulfill the Olympic spirit, to compete, to leave every ounce of effort on the field of play.

Ice skaters fall, hurt themselves then finish their routines. Downhill skiers forced outside the course by the treacherous nature of the mountain still finish the run. Cross country skiers without the talent to ever win a medal slide to the finish with as much emotion as any gold medalist has ever felt. Teenage athletes excitedly look into cameras and say into microphones whatever is on their minds, totally unaffected, honest—laughter, tears, shouts of utter joy or frustration. How can you not appreciate this unscripted drama?

But despite all the best efforts of the International Olympic Committee to protect the integrity of sport and to affirm sportsmanship, still, the Olympics are comprised of people and people do not always do the right thing. Athletes and coaches are dismissed for doping. Athletes are disqualified for cheating or for some other infraction of the rules of competition. Coaches have been known to improperly award points to athletes from theirs or a favored country. Fans sometimes commit unsportsmanlike acts. These are sad developments, but even these instances offer spectators worldwide a chance once again to celebrate the beauty of fair competition.

Then there are individuals who are a morality play all their own. Before nearly every Olympics at least one athlete is heralded as the world’s greatest in his or her sport. They’re touted by media as “bad boys” or “bad girls” because of their devil-may-care attitudes or rebel-like lifestyle. Then the get to the Olympics and don’t win anything, partly if not largely because they’ve squandered their talent and their opportunity on arrogance. They believed the media hype and thought they didn’t have to sacrifice, only to watch some underdog with arguably less talent take their place on the medal podium.

This year’s poster boy for flippancy might be American downhill skier Bode Miller, who made the cover of Newsweek before the games due in part to earlier athletic achievements and due in part to his “I’ll do it my way” attitude that the media loves so much. He still has a chance at this writing, but so far he is 0 for Olympics, wiping out in three of his five events. Meanwhile, his hard partying lifestyle apparently continues.

On the flip side is American speed skater Joey Cheek, who has donated his $25,000 Gold medal money for the 500 m and his $15,000 Silver medal bonus from the 1000 m to a charity called Right to Play. The money is designated to help Sudanese refugee children in Chad. Cheek is winning accolades on and off the ice for his attitude, humility, and generosity.

But that’s the Olympics, the good and the not so good right alongside the excellent. So despite fawning media and over-hyped people and products, every two years the Olympics still offer us a seat at the greatest of all games. I’ll be watching, I’ll cheer for the USA, and I’ll cheer for the underdog, whoever he or she may be.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.