This entire country is in a weird spot when it comes to crimes and their punishments. It seems that we have gotten to the point where the loud voices are screaming for people to endure immediate, swift consequences for any action deemed unsavory. (By who? I don't know. People, I guess.) The actions don't even have to be criminal. They can just be perceived negatively. We are finally getting to the point where the plot from "Minority Report" doesn't seem so far fetched. Sports, once a place where a thing like secrecy was sacred, has fully joined the rest of society with its deep pool of social media and constant headlines. It's no longer okay for your favorite player to just be a sports person who only shows up on television at scheduled times when their team is playing. Two great examples from the recent weeks came in the form of Ryan Lochte and Colin Kaepernick.
I think it is hard to defend either athlete if the argument is that they did things that weren't incredibly smart. Lochte, who did not come as an intelligent individual during a short-lived reality show, will forever be part of the the types of memes usually reserved for comments during segments of "Mean Tweets.1" Kaepernick probably should have met with personnel from the military and law enforcement before he chose to perform his act of Patriotism that had a veil of defiance. He also should have chosen a different pair of socks for a certain pregame warm-up.
We will get to how Lochte plays into all this, but I think it is time for me to lay out the reason why that sentence above was written the way it was. You know, the one where I called the former Nevada star the P-word. I don't know Colin Kaepernick. I doubt I will ever meet him. I do, however, have a pretty good idea about what younger people do and how they act and why they do things. I also tell a lot of them to get off my lawn. Maybe Kaepernick doesn't like the police. Maybe he feels that he has been wronged by them during some situations in his life. Maybe he has friends that have been mistreated. The size of his bank account doesn't preclude him commenting on racial tension in this country just like my age can allow me to make a pretty good guess on why a younger person may do dumb things. I've already done them all. Still, Kaepernick's act was, in my opinion, was a pretty exact definition of Patriotism and a thing that is great about this country. He took a tough issue and demonstrated in a peaceful manner. He did not block a highway, preventing completely innocent people from getting to work. He didn't throw rocks. He didn't cost his city any overtime. Still, I think doing it while at work was dumb. I think the socks were distasteful. I think that he did something that he thought was a good idea without really thinking it through. Basically, he did the exact thing that those people he offended fight for. He just did in a way that many disagree. I am a part of that group. It was still Patriotic, though.
Still, despite the obviousness to some of these conclusions, loud voices tried to confuse the real issue. Some asked for Kaepernick to get fired from his job. I could see grounds based on insubordination, but many just simply yelled it. Also, unless the San Francisco Forty-Niners organization added specific language to his contract, he did not violate any terms of the general agreement that players must abide by. In other words, it is almost certain that he did not break any rule or contract. Then, of course, there is the "if he doesn't like it, he can leave" crowd. This argument ignores all logic simply because the United States is one of the small number of countries where he could demonstrate as he did and not be persecuted. This is the part where my brain and face starts to melt like the ending of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Once we remove logic, then the reaction is almost always going to be pure emotion. The predominant emotion of the internet seems to be yelling insults loudly. Heck, even our upcoming election seems like it is going to be decided by whomever has the strongest vocal cords. I really doubt that sound decision-making only comes from shrilling through voice or written word.
Trying to change lives "just because" is a scary toilet bowl that will bring the plot of "Idiocracy" to fruition faster than predicted. Ryan Lochte may not be a bright guy. I don't know. I've never met him. I probably never will. However, it is true that his life is forever changed due to one bad choice. His bad choice was to celebrate with friends after becoming one of the greatest Olympians of all-time. He got drunk and did something stupid. If my life was allowed to be changed by things I did in college while drunk, then I think I need to change my name and move to Canada (And I mean real Canada, not this Toronto stuff, I'm talking 'cold and birthed with a hockey stick' Canada) before this gets published. The only verifiable thing that happened was that he got drunk. The rest is really fuzzy. Despite a few small voices talking about the extortion by Brazil, the door that wasn't broken by our athletes and stories changing, the world scolded Ryan Lochte. He became a source of embarrassment and lost all four of his sponsors. Sponsors are how Olympic athletes are able to train to continue to be Olympic athletes. Even if the real story does come out and the world sends an apology to him using small words he can understand, it's too late. He won't get four sponsors back. His Olympic career is probably over.
The worst thing about the reactions we have seen during these two stories and with so many other non-sports headlines is that they continue to cloud events so that the real conversations never really occur. Is it really that far-fetched to think that Brazil was all-too-happy to get to rip on the country that ripped on them about the conditions of the venues for the months leading up to games? Of course it is. If not, then our media would have to reflect on itself. *audible gasping* That pause could prevent them from being the first group to report another headline written by the Jump to Conclusions Roulette Enumeration Bot. What if we had to talk about Kaepernick only finally feeling comfortable enough to express himself after it became clear that he wasn't the starting quarterback anymore? Did anyone bring up that question? I find that one much more interesting than acting as if he had burned the flag in front of me.
As the headlines died down and the world stopped sounding like Brick Tamland, a couple of good things came out of the stories. Colin Kaepernick got support from a couple players around the league, including one on his team. A white female joined him in his cause. Peter King reported that he met with a military veteran and now will now profess defiance and deference at the same time by kneeling. He plans to donate to causes and attempt to make real differences; a much better course of action than the one that began the fervor. Ryan Lochte at least got one sponsor back. Of course, his life is still changed. There was no mention how the greatest Olympian of all time did something much worse than Lochte. Michael Phelps' saving grace was the feel-good story about his family and that he didn't do anything bad during the games themselves.
I think it is a good thing that Colin Kaepernick got to stay on the team. It makes me feel hopeful. I am also glad that there may be other solutions to this madness. It's pretty amazing how often everything can be avoided if anyone takes the time to think. It certainly applies to Lochte and Kaepernick. The scary thing is that we tend to put more expectations on famous people than we do upon ourselves. Why do we do that? Jealousy? A perceived duty that the rich should have that we cannot define? It gets even worse when we do it to athletes. Their "crime" is simply being able to perform athletic feats better than almost all of the world's population. Maybe it is possible for us to take a step back the next time we feel obligated to hit "send." Maybe that step back will allow us to listen beyond the noise. Maybe we will start a conversation.
1-It's kind of crazy that "Mean Tweets" is a source on comedy, right?