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Changing Perspectives on Sports

by on April 29, 2014 7:00 AM

I've been thinking about perspective quite a bit these days.

It is amazing how your perspective changes depending on where you are - chronologically, geographically, spatially, etc.

I'll be 45 at the end of this week. If it wasn't for my self-professed immortality (so far, it seems to be going well), some would think that I might be nearing the mid-life range.

I remember thinking as a kid how long a day seemed, how long a week could last and man, do I remember years as being really, really long periods of time. Now, the weeks fly by and I never seem to get half of what I want to get accomplished done. And even the years are starting to turn in the seeming blink of an eye.

I used to envy the Iowa wrestling program and its fans. I wondered if they realized how lucky they were to win all of those national titles and how frustrating it was for Penn State fans (and the fans of every other team). It seemed to come so easily for those Iowa teams of the 1980's.

Now, I wonder if the rest of the country's fans realize how special this Penn State team really is and if they understand all the components that go into creating a dynasty. I do know how fortunate I have been to have a front row seat to watch something so special. And yes, I realize how much work went into Iowa's past success as well.

David Taylor and James English spoke of setting goals and dreaming big at the wrestling team's awards banquet. They were dreaming of winning national titles as kids. In retrospect, maybe I should have set my goals higher than being able to order two milkshakes with my meal when I was old enough and could afford it. (For the record, I have been able to achieve my goal many times over).

I am a fan of words and they are important and can have a significant impact when written or spoken. However, I believe actions are much more significant. While the words of LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling have been rightly condemned by virtually everyone, I wonder if the media isn't overstating their significance.

The words are profoundly and almost unbelievably ignorant and baffling but there is a difference between bigotry and racism and a distinction between those thoughts and the action of discrimination. Just as someone who claims to love black people rings hollow if he or she hires no black people and associates with no black people, so too do the words of what I call a shallow bigot.

If you say you don't want black people pictured at your games but you allow black people in, you hire black people and pay them the going rate or more for their positions, does it really matter what the words you say in private are? Are the words themselves actually harmful to anyone? If so, how far do we take it? What if we don't like someone's political position on an issue or a group of issues?

Do we remove them from their jobs? What if someone says something derogatory about women in a private conversation (something we know never happens in sports circles) but has a wife he treats well, female employees he pays well and a daughter he raises well? Are the words truly more important than the actions? I am not defending Sterling's words but I am much more concerned with his actions. Too often, I believe, we are paying heed to words and not looking at the actions of our leaders and fellow citizens. Words are important but the actions are, in my estimation, of much greater importance.

And, finally, I do realize there are a wide variety of perspectives but Bryan Burwell on ESPN's Sports Reporters this week asked why "so many people, who claim to be true Penn Staters, still find it necessary to preserve the tainted legacy of the late Joe Paterno" with the proposed statue to go in downtown State College. "But they never feel such passion for the victims of Jerry Sandusky," he said.

Burwell went on to ask what it was going to take for some of these Paterno sympathizers to "take off their blinders and just admit that their hero was a shameful old man who was far more concerned about protecting his image and the Penn State football brand than saving these abused children."

I would ask Bryan Burwell what it is going to take for some of these national pundits to look past their false narrative and show concern for the facts of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the reasons these kids may have suffered abuse rather than be so concerned about harming the image of the Penn State football brand and Paterno.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Burwell has never talked to Sandusky's victim's to ask how they feel. At least one has previously said the statue at the stadium should not have been taken down. But Burwell is too busy being sanctimonious on behalf of child abuse victims to actually take the time to find out what their real concerns are. And from my perspective, that makes Bryan Burwell a pathetic pundit.

Does Burwell know the time many of these people working to put up the statue have put in educating themselves and others on what to look for to detect child abuse? Of course not, because he is just interested in a cheap throwaway piece that lets us know he cares more without having to actually do anything.

But we all have our own perspective and it can change.

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Jeff Byers has been the wrestling team’s traveling announcer since 1990.
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