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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, April 20, 2024

Does history skew our view of sports?

When fans think of sports in modern society, we place a great importance on them. 




We see our favorite players on 'SportsCenter' everyday. Highlights are shown of the previous day's games 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 




But we are also extremely cynical of them.  




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If a college'Wisconsin being the most recent example'violates the rules, we are extremely quick to condemn not only the head coach of the offending team, but the university, boosters and everyone associated with the program. 




Or if a player is quick to snap at sports journalists because we ask him a question about the play that he messed up, we do not blame the journalist for asking the question.  




Rather, we write scathing editorials about the player, possibly losing access ever again in order to get back at them. 




However, when we reminisce about the past, we talk about how Babe Ruth was a great humanitarian and idolize Ted Williams as a fan favorite who loved Red Sox fans. 




We cheer the legendary Alabama Head Coach Paul 'Bear' Bryant. 




Through the lens of history, we sometimes see only what we want to see. 




We do not want to hear that Ruth was a crass individual who frequently had extramarital affairs, or that Williams was despised during his playing days for having an adversarial relationship with the media and never tipped his cap to Boston fans for almost his entire career. 




Nobody wants to know that while Bryant was a great coach, he did so with mostly white athletes, partially because he was a racist, Southern white who did not have a black player on his Crimson Tide squad until the mid-1970s'and that was only because it was to his advantage to have blacks on his team. 




These skewed perceptions are almost like stereotypes. While there is some truth to each legend, the real story, much like our own lives, is somewhere in the gray area. 




Ruth unquestionably loved kids, for in certain ways, he was a kid at heart, growing up with few rules and boundaries early in his life. His appetite for life was enormous. So was his infatuation with sex. 




Williams is a true American hero, having served in World War II and the Korean War. Only in the last 15 years has he softened up and allowed the media to know the real Ted Williams. 




'Bear' Bryant did win 322 games, at the time the most in Division I-A history and had legendary victories with his Crimson Tide teams. But he was also a bitter man who carried racist tones with him until he died. 




Whether it is a conscious decision or not, many people do not remember the players, coaches or events in a full manner. In a sense, we do perceive past sports in a skewed fashion. 




Maybe there is a reason. 




Perhaps it is because we like to remember our heroes and villains in black-and-white terms. It gives us order in a chaotic world. 




It could also be that disturbing a legend is a tough thing to do, for it draws the passion out of people because the truth can be unpopular and nobody wants to taint the legend that exists. 




As a history major, I prefer to know the truth. 




Maybe I am the one who is tainted.  

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