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Carroll County Times

Dear Coach: Don't hate on athletes

Welcome to the third installment of the bi-monthly mailbag; let's get to it:

Dear Coach,

Honestly, I find the whole "hate" angle in sports to be completely obnoxious at this point. Hansbrough and Laettner were tremendous college basketball players who kicked the [crap] out of most of their competitors, which is the true reason for the "hate". We appear far too eager to tear down anyone of fame. Granted, there are some real [jerks] who probably deserve it, but most of them are just humans with normal human flaws. If someone wants to spend their time screaming about Hansbrough, Laettner, Lebron, Tiger, etc., fine. Personally, I much rather enjoy watching some of the best ever perform at their best.

Chris D., Columbus, OH

Full disclosure: Chris D. is my best childhood friend; a much better basketball player than me; his playing career was cut short by a pair of less-than-reliable knees. And, this email was in reply to a link I sent him to the fourth installment of Grantland's faux bracket-based column, breaking-down the "The Most Hated College Basketball Players of the Last 30 years."

Specifically, the column discussed, in large part, how much of a(n) [jerk] Christian Laettner was; including advancing arguments for why people hate(d) him, and why doing so was or is OK.

The previous installment of that same Grantland column centered on JJ Redick; including, not surprisingly, mention of instances when fans in, wait for it ... wait ... you guessed it, the Comcast Center at Maryland, would chant a familiar and unprintable insult. [Keep it classy Terp fans; keep it classy.]

The installment before that, described the appalling manner in which opposing fans treated Patrick Ewing; including hoisting flat-out ignorant, racially-charged signs.

Chris is absolutely right. The only potential caveat-identifying the appropriate label to attach to our emotional responses to headline-making stories where success, fame, fans, money, and never hearing "no" enable the tragic character flaw of hubris in and from (in)famous high-level athletes and coaches; and, this hubris results in flawed decision-making of epic proportions.

Even in those instances, the proper response may be something more akin to saddened disappointment than hate; because hate really carries some strong connotations.

Barry Bonds, he of the Mount Rushmore of sports-villains, once made a comment suggesting that - and to paraphrase - a player had to be pretty darn good to incite 65,000 fans to boo him night after night.

Just as baseball purists love to hate Bonds; it seems a large population of people - particularly sports-writers - were happy to see Lance Armstrong's fall from grace when his hubris-built house-of-cards came crashing down.

Try arguing the case for hating Armstrong with a moralist, a philosophical type with a utilitarian bend, or a cancer survivor. A liar? Yes.

Delusions of grandeur and psychopathic tenancies? Check. A(n) [jerk] to the 'nth degree? It appears that way. But, well, perhaps the best thing to happen to the fight against cancer since the color pink? You bet your yellow Livestrong bracelet!

And, where does Michael Vick - and people's hatred for him - sit on the spectrum of venom being spewed toward flawed sports stars? Is Vick's an altogether different case study; the basis for why folks hate him being born from his off the field canine-based criminal actions [and the ill-informed and/or ill-influenced titling of his new memoir Finally Free]?

For all their annoying habits and chants, and dances, and body paint, and tent-cities, Duke's Cameron Crazies aren't actually rude; nor do their chants contain sentiments of hatred.

When I was in school, was our bus welcomed to Durham by a mile-and-a-half-long line of students holding one of my teammate's mug-shots (earned in an altercation on Halloween the previous Fall) over their faces? Yes. Is there a chance that one of the Crazies once held-up a sign saying "JR Can't Reid"? Yup. Did one of them even go so far as to raise high a sign that said "McGinnis, have you driven a Ford lately?" [If you don't know the backstory, go to Google.] Sadly, uh huh.

But, once the games started, and despite their overall and general nerdiness, the Crazies and their choreographed movements and chants were all pro-Duke.

They weren't rude or hateful, or hate-filled at all.

Eagles fans famously booed Santa Claus. That didn't mean they hated the guy.

Hate is born from the equally unproductive and unhealthy emotions of anger, fear and jealousy. I've been accused of not being a real Carolina fan because I don't hate Duke; had my loyalty questioned because

I admit to respecting their program. An honest appreciation, respect, and admiration for the abilities and on-field, -court, and -course achievements of athletes - whether they're on your team or not - is far more fair and proper than advertising or articulating some ill-conceived sentiment of hatred; particularly based-upon or rooted-in some hard-held anger or jealousy toward what that athlete has done to or against your team.

If athletes are [jerks] off the field, well, maybe shake your head at the athlete's flawed character, at human nature, and/or at the tragedy of hubris; but, try to hold-back on the hyperbole and histrionics of hatred.


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