“42” Reverberates into today’s sports world

42What is amazing about quality period pieces is the ability to draw parallels between that particular time and the present. To use the past or the future as a window into the current makes everything feel a bit more real. The Jackie Robinson biopic “42” does exactly that.

“42” is a fine sports movie although it is nothing special. I left the theatre entertained and enlightened in certain aspects of Robinson’s journey, but this movie will be up for no awards. What the film did do well is highlight the brutality Robinson was met with on a daily basis. The seething opposition aimed at one man was truly horrendous, but accurate. Overall, the film is a poignant examination of intolerance, ignorance and cruelty among the masses.

Jackie RobinsonBreaking barriers is an immense challenge. While I am extremely proud and thankful that Jackie Robinson had the emotional and mental fortitude to accomplish such a change, the work is not over. Today, we face a new barrier.

The sexual orientation barrier.

There is not a single openly gay active athlete in America’s four major sports (NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL). Players have come out but only after retiring. Is our sports culture so single minded that closeted gay athletes are afraid to come out? Will they be met with the same vitriol that Robinson was once forced to endure?

Magic--Gay AthletesOf course, there are some examples of courageous honesty that are met with nothing but support. Brittney Griner, the likely number one overall pick in the WNBA draft, recently confirmed the rumors of her sexual orientation. “Be who you are” Griner said in her statement. All Robinson wanted to be was a ballplayer but for the longest time the public wouldn’t let him, only because he was a littler different than them.

Change is a slow process. It takes years to gain full acceptance in some instances. We can only hope that society has changed enough that a gay athletes would even be a blip on the radar anymore.

Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker, Brendon Ayanbadejo, has expressed his staunch support for gay marriage and worked hard to spread acceptance throughout the NFL. In fact, Ayanbadejo says that they are in talks with up to four current players about coming out publicly. This would forever shift the landscape for gay athletes and truly test the sports culture’s readiness for such a change. But, what would be the reaction both in and outside of the locker room?

Hate MailLet us hope that unlike in Robinson’s era, we do not see everything in black and white.

Instead, let us hope for a little rainbow-color in there.

Why do I love sports?

Championship trophiesWhy do I love sports?

I love sports because it is a world us regular people will never fully understand. It is a world where individuals show us things we never thought possible. It is a world where anything and everything can happen and humans are no longer bound by common physical limitations.

The Shot

Why do I love sports?

I love sports because it allows us to join an entity bigger than ourselves. Being a fan isn’t just about rooting for a team. It’s about entering an entire culture of people who share the same passion as you. It’s about walking down the street in a random city far away from home and instantly connecting with someone because they’re wearing the same jersey as you.

robinsonWhy do I love sports?

I love sports because in those rare moments it can transcend beyond just a simple game. It can represent an entire society with its flaws and successes, its limits and potential. Its impact can surpass mere winning and losing as special moments evolve into lasting iconic images engrained in our culture and passed down among generations.

AliWhy do I love sports?

I love sports because athletes chase their dreams. They aren’t afraid of failure and they are willing to work for what they want most. No matter how outlandish or impossible, they refuse to give up. I like to think the same applies to all of our dreams and watching sports reminds us of that.

MiracleWhy do I love sports?

I love sports because, at the end of the day, I just want a few hours to get away from it all. I want a few hours to become lost in something that I enjoy. I want to feel connected while also entertained.

Why do I love sports?

I love sports because of family moments like this.


So tell me, why do you love sports?

Dismantling The Gun Culture in Professional Sports

James Harrison Gun PicAre guns synonymous with toughness?

Do they make one appear cool?

Have guns become necessary for protection?

Are they simply a guilty pleasure?

The answers to these questions differ depending on whom you ask. The one guarantee, however, is that guns are an increasingly prevalent aspect within the professional sports world.

Luke Scott, currently with the Tampa Bay Rays, said in a 2006 interview with ESPN that he estimates that 50 percent of MLB players at the time owned some type of gun. In the same article, Roger Renrick, a body guard whose worked for NBA stars such as Jalen Rose and Paul Pierce, guessed that roughly 60 percent of NBA players possessed a gun. NFL free agent receiver Jabar Gaffney estimated that close to 90 percent of NFL players owned a gun.

Of course, it is perfectly within one’s right to own a firearm. Many athletes use guns for sport and protection.

But, let’s review the past few years. In 2010, All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended for brandishing a gun in the Wizards locker room during a dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton. A year later, Crittenton was arrested for the shooting death of a 22-year-old mother of four.

Gilbert Arenas mocked the locker room incident shortly after during pre-game warm ups.

Gilbert Arenas mocked the locker room incident shortly after during pre-game warm ups.

In May of 2012, All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest multiple times. In late 2012, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot the mother of his child a total of nine times before killing himself shortly after.

These are only three examples out of the many gun related incidents involving professional athletes.

Many athletes grew up in crime ridden areas where gun possession was wide spread. To carry a firearm was similar to having a cell phone, barely an after thought. Whether it was for protection or other uses, owning a gun was commonplace. Unfortunately, that same mentality has manifested itself into an epidemic at the professional level.

The association between guns, coolness and toughness is deeply embedded. These childhood tendencies and viewpoints have clearly stayed with many of the current professional athletes.

NFL receiver Plaxico Burress was sentenced to two years in prison for criminal possession of a handgun.

NFL receiver Plaxico Burress was sentenced to two years in prison for criminal possession of a handgun.

Pop culture has contributed to the mainstream acceptance of guns. Our television shows, video games and movies are saturated with gun violence to the point that it has desensitized us to the true dangers. Popular musicians in the Hip-Hop genre frequently praise their weapons in their lyrics. American culture regularly employs fake violence as entertainment. Growing up in this type of environment is bound to condition one to associate positive attributes to negative actions.

For every professional athlete that has a fascination with guns, there are a handful of regular people with the same affliction. There are young kids who look up to these athletes as role models and emulate their behavior. If they are bombarded with popular media that reinforces the coolness of guns and see their heroes using them frequently, it is only reasonable to expect them to do the same. Gun culture may be a critical problem within the sporting world, but its effects seep into everyday life as well.

Ultimately, there needs to be a better understanding of the dangers that accompany guns. Incoming players need to be further educated on gun violence and proper firearm conduct. There have to be programs that counter the negative effects entertainment yields in regards to guns. Players, as well as regular people, need to be shown that guns don’t make someone cool and tough and instead can lead to horrific violence. When examples like Jovan Belcher, who owned over eight guns, surface it crystallizes the fact that the need for weapons exceeds mere protection within this culture. There are other factors under the surface that are driving this fascination and it is these factors that need to be addressed.

The core issue is not just that there exists a gun culture among professional athletes, but that a gun culture exists throughout the country.

As with many problems, the mentality behind this attraction needs to be changed for the good. It may be extremely difficult to break habits that have developed since childhood. But, we are seeing the NFL attempt to do it with player safety on the field. There should be increased focus for safety off the field as well.

In a recent interview with Jon Stewart, Bob Costas discussed the gun related issues that plague professional sports. Costas succinctly argued that their needs to be a greater emphasis placed on combatting the attitude towards guns rather then repealing the Second Amendment. The issue is not the infringement of one’s rights and the changing of laws. Rather, it is the popular nature of guns among the players. There is a lack of understanding, regardless of intent, of what guns are capable of.

Costas goes on to say, “What are the chances that out of every 100 incidents, that these [guns] are being used for sporting purposes, or just legitimately for self-defense, as opposed to something tragic, even if it’s unintentionally tragic, happening?”

It’s time that the major sporting organizations join together and dismantle the gun culture that exists within professional sports. This will serve as the first step for disbanding gun culture as a whole.