While the national pundits make a bit of an about face on the Mariota vs. Winston draft pick issue, it’s not a bad time to take a look at some of the little things that maybe shouldn’t be so little in the convoluted relationship among athletics, universities and fans. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ top draft choice, baby-talk athletes and fans’ rights are the subjects of this week’s Three-and-Out.
1. The Bucs’ choice: After the declaration of Jameis Winston as the top pro-style quarterback and the questioning of how Marcus Mariota could possibly learn how to take a snap under center, some national pundits — including ESPN’s Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge — are beginning to think that Mariota might serve Tampa Bay better than Winston. One of the issues, it seems, is that Mariota is more mobile, which would be a good thing, given that the Bucs’ offensive line is prone toward “look out” blocking. For those who don’t know the term, it’s when an offensive lineman turns and shouts to the quarterback — with good reason — “Look out!” Regardless, the pundits now think that Mariota’s ability to do more than stand in the pocket and get creamed could come in handy.
Pointing out interception numbers, the pundits also think that Mariota may exercise better judgment on the field — not to mention off the field. What is flabbergasting is that it has taken those in the know this long to come forward with these ideas. What remains to be seen is how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will view the two, but mobile and four interceptions vs. immobile and 18 interceptions seems a no-brainer. And speaking of no-brainers ….
2. Baby-talk athletes: We’ve discussed the three-and-out for football players and the one-and-done and then off to the NBA for the round ball players, and we’ve discussed the value of a college education. But what about the value of cooling it with the baby talk?
Is there anything more irritating to anyone with an ounce of grammar Nazi in his blood than hearing somebody who is supposedly semi-educated start a sentence with “Me”? As in, “Me and the team are just happy to pick up the win.” Or worse still, “Me and him are best friends.”
There are a few niceties to be observed here. To start with, it is polite to put the other person first. “Me first” just has all kinds of bad connotations. And of course, the subject of a sentence calls for the subjective — “He and I.” This isn’t being a snob. It’s being a grownup.
Athletes who use the “Me and him” sort of grammar may think they are being trendy. They may think they are being cool. They may think that they are speaking an acceptable variation of the English language. But they’re not. They are talking baby talk. Grammatically, it takes only a baby step to get from “Me hungry” to “Me and him are best friends.”
Like it or not, for many these athletes are faces of their universities. If coaches don’t do anything else for their players — and if the players can only gain one thing while doing time before being eligible for the draft — it should be for the players to get enrolled in Pronouns 101 so that they can come across as educated beyond kindergarten when they represent their universities in front of the national media. “Me and him went to college” just doesn’t speak highly for the university themselves went to.
3. Fans’ rights: At the recent Pepsi Invitational Track Meet, Oregon distance runners Edward Cheserek, Eric Jenkins and Will Geoghegan crossed the finish line together in the 5K, all qualifying for the NCAA Western Regional Championship. As expressed in the comments section in a post by OregonLive.com‘s Ken Goe, it apparently wasn’t enough for at least one fan, who felt he didn’t get his money’s worth when the trio chose not to duke it out down the stretch.
On the surface this attitude may seem harmless enough, but it sends an insidious message from fans to athletes, which is: Your main purpose for competing is to entertain me. Never mind that you just hit a regional qualifying time. Never mind that you have a gut-puker workout scheduled for tomorrow to prepare you for NCAAs. Never mind that you and your teammates went 1-2-3. I paid my $20 — or whatever — and I was not entertained!
Of course this is all wrong. More so than football or basketball, track athletes (especially distance runners) train to qualify for — and then reach a peak performance at — a championship meet. It’s a touchy recipe that involves just the right amount of exertion and rest at just the right times over the course of a season, or even over the course of a career. Because of training fatigue, distance runners cannot be in a position to run their best every meet and expect to bring it home at NCAAs.
But if not understanding the training cycle is wrong, making the athletic performances out to be “for our entertainment” is even more wrong. The essence of athletics is excellence in achievement — over the course of a season, the course of a year, the course of a lifetime. Sorry, sports fans, it’s not about us. As fans, our role is to appreciate and, hopefully, draw some inspiration. Those seeking instant gratification for their money should consider going to the movies.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck