What do you expect out of an athlete? Just that he play well? That he’s loyal to the team? That he doesn’t get mixed up with steroids?
I read an interview by an athlete (who will go unnamed, as will his sport) yesterday, and it made me question what I expect out of an athlete. The athlete has had some measure of success. He hasn’t been accused of using steroids. He doesn’t get in trouble for his actions off the playing surface. Until I read the interview, he was doing all the right things.
Yet, one sentence changed my opinion of him. A sentence that was nothing short of 100% honesty. Which is why I am now questioning the expectations I have for athletes.
The sentence involved an admission that he would rather be playing a different sport than the one he’s playing.
At first, I was shocked and angry. He’s playing a sport thousands of guys would love to be playing. How dare he admit that he doesn’t love it as much as another sport?!
Then I realized that what he’d really done was something so few people who were asked the question would do – he told the honest truth. Not the truth we all wanted to hear, but the reality he lives with every day. Although he’s living the life hundreds of thousands of guys before him have only dreamed about, it’s not his dream.
I spent some time really thinking about my reaction. Why did I want him to say what we all expect him to say, that he’s playing the game he loves the most? Shouldn’t he get some credit for being honest?
I would equate it with how I felt when I met people who got into top law schools and told me they weren’t really sure they wanted to go to law school. I had wanted to go since I was a kid, and I was furious that they were taking a spot that could be mine when they seemingly could care less about becoming a lawyer. Similarly, I was a little offended by this athlete’s statement, because I know thousands of other guys would choose his sport as their first choice and would give anything to be playing it.
Having had twenty-four hours to chew on it, I’ve decided I should admire this athlete for his honesty. I’m sure that he feels blessed to be where he’s at, even if it wasn’t his first choice. We all say we hate politically correct, overly polished or rehearsed answers, so I should applaud this guy for telling the truth, admitting his heart lies elsewhere.
What do you all think? If you’re lucky enough to get to play a professional sport, should you always have to say that you love it? Should you be banned from complaining about anything job-related just because you have a career so many others want?
I’m not posting the athlete’s name or sport, because I don’t think it’s important and it’s not the point of this post. If you’re able to figure it out, please keep it to yourself.
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