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Vulgar Opinions: Skate Humans, Skate For My Amusement

08/20/12
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I have this theory about athletes, that they’re human beings, capable of the same emotions, flaws, ups, and downs as the rest of us.  Novel, I know.

The fan-athlete ‘relationship,’ is an odd one sometimes.  We’re essentially allowed to lob criticisms carte blanche, justified and not, with little recourse.  God knows that when someone comments on how we do our jobs, we tend to handle it poorly.  We’re essentially guilty of the same thing we hate our managers and our companies for, thinking that the players are merely hockey-playing robots, able to be plugged in for our benefit and wholly devoted to that cause.  When their personal lives fly in the face of that, we get a little angry.

“How dare Ryan Miller waste time hobnobbing with movie stars, or Drew Stafford join a band, or Thomas Vanek make children with greater ease than most of us make breakfast?  These people are paid millions to play a game.  They should be thinking about hockey.  If I were paid-”

You’re not.  And you wouldn’t.  People can’t even go a day without wasting an hour on facebook, or muster the willpower to avoid buying the latest $60 video game.  What makes them think they’ll suddenly get better with more time and money at their disposal?

The argument inevitably comes to money, specifically how much athletes make, and how criminally underpaid those in more worthwhile professions (like teaching) are.  There is definitely some validity there, but the big picture is incomplete.  Most of us couldn’t even begin to put a price on our family and friends.  So where do we draw the line on the compensation for being away from those family and friends for large chunks of nine months a year?  Or having what time they do have shared with a nosy public and inconsiderate reporters?  (I understand that athletes aren’t paid millions for that reason, but at some point I think we can admit that the compensation is more fair than we often think.)

Obviously we can go back and forth all day discussing the details of that argument.  Producing a definitive answer on athlete worth is not the purpose of this article (nor is it really possible anyway).  The point is that these players aren’t toys that exist for our amusement.  They don’t go into a box when they’re done playing hockey (or a weight room, right Heatley?), they aren’t immune to the things we deal with everyday just because they have money.  They’re human beings.  I hope we can remember that once in a while.

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