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The Cynical Fan: Why We Assume the Worst About Our Sports Superstars

By Yong-yi Zhu

SPORTS COLUMNIST

Dear LeBron James,

I know that the semester is just beginning, and I didn’t want to start on a bad note. So, I would like to apologize for the negative comments I almost made about you this week. I had read a blurb that you would not be participating in the NBA All Star game’s dunking competition despite receiving an invite. Immediately, I came to the conclusion that you thought you are above such a silly little contest. Only when I read the entire article did I remember your ankle injury and how this competition would actually be detrimental to your health. Let me explain why I so suddenly jumped to conclusions about your situation. I must stress that this cynicism is not entirely my fault.

The initial cause that came to mind was Barry Bonds from last summer. He was invited to perform in the Home Run Derby and promptly declined the invitation. I think that you can see the resemblance between the two events, at least up to this point. But soon, Bonds proceeded to be the jerk he is traditionally known to be. When he was asked about why he chose not to go, Bonds childishly stated that he did not have to do anything which he did not want to do.

To think, a superstar denying the chance for his fans to see him in action seems rather selfish. What were Bonds’ motives for playing the game of baseball? This caused me to be rather cynical about sports players in general.

Of course, actions of Barry Bonds, the man many love to hate, do not surprise me. However, those of Sammy Sosa, the man everyone loves to love, did. I don’t think anyone was ready to see his corked bat, and with that shattering bat came a million questions that the sports fans must now pose every time a batter hits a home run. I can no longer feel like the innocent kid that goes to a baseball game to see the deep ball; instead, I’m forced to be the adult that wonders if anyone or everyone is cheating. I know the cynicism is horrible, but I just can’t help it.

This doesn’t even stop at the pro level. Even college programs lie about their situations. Take the fiasco with Maurice Clarett as another example. Clarett, the ex-running back for the Ohio State Buckeyes, reported that he had various expensive equipment that was stolen from his car. Now, Clarett is just a college student, even though he may be a potential star. He hasn’t yet signed with any companies in order to make money, so where was this expensive equipment coming from? With that sudden realization, Clarett changed his story and reported that the car was his friend’s and that he was just borrowing it; everyone knew that was a lie. So where was Clarett getting all the money?

Well, obviously, not everything was kosher with him and the team suspended him for an entire year because of it. It’s sad that the amateurs of today must be reminded of their status. The students are too money-hungry for their own good, and often times are not telling the truth about where their money comes from. LeBron, granted I had the same doubts about you when you bought that Hummer, but I guess everything checked out. Still, I have to think twice now and be skeptical about everything that happens in the college realm in terms of financial aid and signing contracts.

Another memorable, but horrible example happened last year with the death of Patrick Dennehy. After his death, the Baylor basketball program did not come out with all the facts so that the investigation could be made easier and the truth could be found more quickly. Instead, Dave Bliss, the head coach of the Baylor basketball team, covered up many improper financial supports and several drug tests that showed positive results; Bliss left the program afterwards.

Not only did this mishap involve sports, but the life of a college student was at stake as well. It forced me to think twice about how much the coaches around the country care about the well-being of themselves versus their players.

I guess those things at least have made me into more of a skeptic. But you can see where I’m coming from, right? I know that most athletes are still there to play hard and entertain the fans, but it’s those few that don’t who make us wonder. I know that you yourself have been a model citizen in Cleveland, and I hope your team does well in the second half of the season.

Your fan,

Yong-yi Zhu