Players Just Don’t Understand

By on July 22, 2013

This past November 24th, Ohio State Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde (34) breaks a tackle attempted by Michigan Wolverines defensive back Raymon Taylor (6) at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 26-21. (photo by Greg Bartram / US PRESSWIRE)

Before I get started let me just preface this article by saying it’s easy to critique someone of another class when you don’t have to walk a mile in their shoes.

Today is Monday July 22, 2013 and I’m upset.

I shouldn’t be upset. I am in a nice hotel in New Orleans to watch my youngest sister play in a basketball tournament here in the Crescent City. She’s a junior and will be playing in front of many scouts throughout the week. It should be a happy time for me.

However, it’s a difficult morning for my dad and I here in the Big Easy. We’re both huge Ohio State fans and I’m a senior up in Columbus. We’re upset because according to Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch star running back Carlos Hyde has been dismissed from the team stemming from an incident at a Columbus bar early Saturday morning. There’s also a lot of heat on starting cornerback for the Buckeyes Bradley Roby, who was arrested early Sunday morning at a bar in Bloomington, Ind.

Of course the on-field ramifications of each of these incidents will be huge, but that’s not what I’m upset about. It doesn’t matter whether these guys are innocent or guilty right now, though I certainly don’t wish for them to be punished if they are in fact innocent. There are conflicting reports at this moment whether or not Hyde has actually been kicked off the team, so we’ll see what’s going on later in the week at the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. That’s not what this is about, however. I’m not here to talk about what these guys are in trouble for, that’s not the most aggravating thing to me today. No, I’m upset at these two and many other athletes around the country at all levels and have a few select words for these athletes: Y’ALL STILL DON’T GET IT.

To be an athlete at any level is a privilege, not a right. With that tremendous privilege comes a great responsibility. Athletes don’t just represent themselves, but the team they play for, their communities, their teammates and once you get to a high enough level of sport the fans who pay money to support that team. These guys can’t just go hang out and just be regular people because they ARE held to a higher standard, fair or not. It’s frustrating because many athletes like Texas A&M’s Heisman winning QB Johnny Manziel fail to understand that they will be placed on a pedestal and every action they take, good or bad, will be dissected to no end and will reflect on many other people than just him or herself.

I only played a couple of years of AAU baseball until I was 16 and I was sidelined by a heart condition that required “career-ending” surgery. I don’t know what it’s like to be a big time athlete. I do however understand the black experience in America and from it I have learned this: you don’t always have to go looking for trouble, many times it will come looking for you. So don’t make yourself available. It’s easy for me to say this now, but if I was the most recognizable guy in a 100-mile radius I don’t think I would leave my place except for class and the gym and to occasionally be sociable.

“So you’re telling me I can’t have fun like a normal college kid?” YES!! That’s exactly what I’m saying. Remember, you are held to a different standard than a normal person. It may seem like a sacrifice, but if you have the potential to make money, be a part of a championship team or to continue to get a free education you may have to give up going to bars at one in the morning. Sorry. I may seem like a hypocrite because I will be seen in Columbus bars this fall, but I’m not a target like athletes are and people won’t mob me because I walked through the door. Besides, nothing constructive happens in a place full of alcohol and people who you don’t know but who know you.

When you’re an athlete you’re a target. People who you have never met in your life recognize you and want things from you. They want to latch onto you in the hope to make money when you make money. They want your autograph. They want you to make appearances. They want to hang around you in an attempt to seem cooler. It doesn’t matter the precise motivation, but people who normally wouldn’t pay you any mind will want to be around you because of your status. The sad thing is coaches at major institutions and in professional sports have this conversation with their players and they still make these same mistakes.

Of course, many athletes don’t fit the mold I just laid out. Many are good students. Many are positive influences. Many are great role models in the community. Many like Alabama QB A.J. McCarron haven’t done anything to negatively reflect on their team and aren’t a distraction, but an asset. The problem is being a good person doesn’t make headlines quite often as scandal does so the potential for negative attention coming from a bad act is much higher than the potential for publicity from a good, selfless act.

To risk the reputation of a team for self-gratification is selfish and guys don’t seem to get that. Ohio State was poised coming into the year to at the very least win the Big Ten and go the Rose Bowl after going 12-0 last season. Roby and Hyde’s actions were selfish. It doesn’t mean they’re bad guys. I’m not sure about Roby, but from Hyde’s twitter I’m fairly certain he is a Christian man like myself. As a Christian I believe in second chances and I know Hyde will be given a second chance and should. I also believe that people should learn from their mistakes to better themselves. Better yet, I believe people should look at the mistakes of others and use that knowledge to keep themselves out of trouble. It only makes sense. Why be like Michael Vick or Maurice Clarett and waste years of your athletic prime and it be too late before you learn from your mistakes and become a better person? Today Vick and Clarett are quality guys and truly do want to be the best people they can possibly be, but had to lose everything they had worked for before doing so.

Being young and dumb is no longer an excuse. Guys like Manziel may think so, but guys like McCarron recognize it’s an unnecessary risk to take. It’s refreshing to see guys who get it and understand that when they became a part of a major team they became a part of something much bigger than themselves.

Still, if even one athlete hurts their team by going out and getting a DUI or getting in a fight or domestic abuse or whatever it’s one too many. It doesn’t even take doing anything inherently wrong. Manziel has done nothing wrong, but has needlessly put himself in the public eye so much so it’s causing people to question his focus on football. A&M doesn’t need that. I’ll leave you with a quote from editor of the Buckeye Sports Bulletin, Jeff Svoboda, who has covered Ohio State athletics for years. Today on twitter Svoboda said “As I’ve got older I’ve seen in life, it takes only one second to erase many hours of hard work. It’s amazing.” Amazing and incredibly sad.

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