For those who may not be familiar with the concept of The Seven Deadly Sins…or maybe you just need a quick refresher…they are pride, wrath, greed, envy, sloth, lust, and gluttony. My understanding is that Catholicism categorizes sin into venial (minor) sin and capital (mortal) sin. Needless to say The Seven Deadly Sins would be considered the latter, more serious variety. I myself am Methodist and believe that sin is sin, that there is no differentiation. However, my purpose here is not to dive into a lively debate on theology, but rather to use The Seven Deadly Sins as a jumping off point to discuss some subject matter in the world of sports that I have been avoiding for a significant period of time. I feel like the time is finally right to address these issues. I said from the very beginning in my introduction to this website that I did not particularly care for the police blotter aspect of sports in 21st Century America, something I call The O.J. Effect. However, I also said that I would not hesitate to write about such topics when they arose.
Three names have dominated our sports pages, websites, and talk shows for the past several months. It is not totally out of the ordinary that they would be in the headlines on ESPN or sports talk radio, but unfortunately everyone has been talking not about their elite skill level or successful endeavors within their respective sports, but focusing on the tabloid fodder that their personal lives have become. Now I have never been one to put athletes on a pedestal. I respect their talent and enjoy watching the games, but even as a rabid fan I feel like I have always been able to keep sports in proper perspective and not succumb to silly hero-worship. But there is no denying that professional athletes are in the spotlight, that children look up to them, and that their public personas do carry a certain influence. That is what has made the fall from grace of these three men so disappointing. The three individuals I am speaking of are, of course, Tiger Woods, Lebron James, and Ben Roethlisberger. I do not know exactly why I have waited until now to express my opinions on the storms they have so publicly battled, but the time has now arrived to do just that.
Tiger Woods has long been considered the best golfer in the world, and it has been thought a foregone conclusion that someday he will break the great Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. However, all of that began falling apart last November, as slowly but surely it began to be revealed that Tiger had cheated on his wife with over a dozen women. Obviously his number one vice is lust, with gluttony (because cheating on your wife with 14 women is undoubtedly excessive) not far behind. Why did he sleep with all those women?? Who knows really, but I assume there were several reasons, the foremost being simply that he could. He is rich, famous, and powerful. Women tend to throw themselves at such men. That’s just human nature. It was Tiger Woods’ responsibility to honor his marriage vows and be faithful to his wife. He chose to break those vows over and over and over again. Of course he will ultimately face judgment from the one true God, and that is something about which I cannot and will not make comment. But he is already paying for his lust in the here & now. His marriage is over. And while I am sure both he and his ex-wife will do their best to be good parents, there is no denying that their divorce will have a damaging effect on the children, especially someday when they are old enough to understand why Mom and Dad are no longer together. He has suffered professionally as well, having not come close to winning a tournament since returning from a brief hiatus. As an avid golf fan I always cheered for Tiger Woods. Though I almost always gravitate toward the underdog, for some reason I have enjoyed seeing Woods be the dominating force that he is, mowing down the competition without breaking a sweat. That is all over now. I am smart enough to know that many athletes are not great human beings and do a lot of things wrong, but golf is not a team sport, so the individual and his shortcomings are more exposed to the world. Tiger Woods is under a brighter spotlight than just about anyone else, so his fall from grace has been very public and quite sad. I know that there are many that were glad to see him return to the links and immediately began cheering for him to once again destroy any opponents standing between him and victory. But personally when I look at Tiger Woods now all I see is a man who couldn’t keep it in his pants, a man who cheated on his wife numerous times, and a man whose biggest regret is not that infidelity but the fact that he got caught.
Speaking of getting caught, let’s talk about Ben Roethlisberger, the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a tough one for me because I am a huge Steeler fan and have been for over 30 years. I am a team guy so I don’t really get into any one player over another, and on the rare occasion that I do develop a particular attachment it is usually to a lesser known, under the radar type whose contribution is really only appreciated by true fans who are paying attention and not the pretty boy media darlings. But Big Ben is the quarterback of my favorite team so of course I have always liked him. He has repeatedly shown poor judgment and a skosh of immaturity off the field, but on the field he has led the team to two Super Bowl victories in the past few years so it’s been all good. However, this past spring he was accused of raping a young lady in a bar in Georgia. It isn’t the first time he has been accused of sexual misconduct, and the situation was compounded by the seriousness of the charge. Also not helpful to Roethlisberger was that fact that this was a college bar and the alleged victim was an 18-year-old girl. He is a 27-year-old multimillionaire so of course folks are going to wonder why he’s hanging with the barely legal crowd. At first I was a Big Ben apologist. I figured that this was a greedy harlot with dollar signs in her eyes, seizing an opportunity to cash in by accusing one of the world’s most famous athletes…and a man who had been previously accused of nefarious actions by a woman…of one of the most heinous crimes in all of criminality. But as various sordid details began to emerge a different picture began to be drawn in my heart and mind. Very few people will ever know what really happened in that barroom lavatory and the authorities decided there was not enough solid evidence to pursue a conviction. However, I am a person who believes that where there is smoke there is fire. Did Ben Roethlisberger rape a woman?? Maybe, maybe not. But he is at the very least guilty of pride. He thought he could do whatever he wanted, have whoever and whatever he wanted, because he is famous, rich, and successful. He continues to pursue a life of debauchery long after most men have grown up and moved on. The fact that he purposely chose to engage in these activities at a place where the clientele is more apt to be impressionable and less inclined to have the wherewithal to stand up to him reeks of a sinister thought process that I cannot help but dislike immensely. I believe in freedom, and Big Ben can drink what he likes, go to whatever club he chooses, and spend his idle time in any way that tickles his fancy. But there is a line and it seems likely that he crossed it in some form or fashion. Will I continue to support my Steelers?? Sure. Will I cheer for Ben Roethlisberger?? Yes. But more than anything he will be in my prayers. He is a young man. Most of the mistakes he has made have been small ones that maturity should cure. The one huge mistake he was accused of is one that only he and his accuser know he either did or didn’t make. If he did commit that heinous act and was fortunate enough to get away with it I hope he learns from it, that he decides to embrace his many blessings and put away his childish ways and self-indulgent lifestyle.
And finally, self-indulgence seems like a good way to segue into a discussion of Lebron James. Basketball, specifically professional basketball, has always been far behind football and baseball in my own personal sports hierarchy. Unlike football, baseball, college basketball, and even hockey, Nascar, and golf, I have never had a particular rooting interest in the NBA. The league has long been one that markets individual stars at the expense of teams, so I grew up liking Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan while disliking tremendously, for no apparent reason, Larry Bird. Since the retirement of Jordan I haven’t really found anyone that really caught my attention. Lebron James had the potential to be that player, but not now. Has Lebron sexually assaulted anyone or committed adultery?? No, nothing that serious. But on some level, in a very odd way understandable only to die-hard sports fans, the crimes of Lebron James are worse. One can look at Tiger Woods and Ben Roethlisberger and say that their private lives are their own business and that fans have no right to judge…and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But the recent events surrounding “King” James have everything to do with his sport on the court. In leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and “taking his talents to South Beach” (aka the Miami Heat) he broke the hearts of an entire city and significantly altered the landscape of the entire league. Let me make one thing clear…Lebron James was a free agent and was completely within his rights to change teams and accept the best offer, both monetarily and in terms of the potential for success. The problem is not what he did, but how he did it. James is guilty of greed and envy. He was so greedy in his quest for championships and the need to “build his brand”, and he was so envious of what other players, like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and new teammate Dwayne Wade already had…rings on their finger…that he was willing to do anything to get a ring of his own, including stomping on the hearts of the fans in his hometown. I always liked Lebron. In a league full of semi-literate thugs he has always seemed even-tempered, well-mannered, and soft-spoken. But I am a firm believer in the fact that there is a way to handle your business and a way not to handle your business. You want to leave a job?? Fine…put in a two-week notice. You want to break up with your significant other?? Okay…but do it face to face and not with a letter, e-mail, or over the phone. Have your disagreements and arguments, but discuss your issues like an adult and if you are wrong apologize. I think Lebron James has known for months that he was leaving Cleveland. He wanted to go somewhere sexier, maximize his profit margin, and have the best opportunity to win a title. Everyone with a brain has always known that those things, while not impossible, are much more difficult to attain in Cleveland than in bigger cities like New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, Chicago, and Boston. I will always espouse the opinion that at the very least Lebron knew immediately after losing the last game of a playoff series to the Celtics that he was going elsewhere. The lasting image of that game for me is him walking down the tunnel toward the locker room, dejected, removing his Cavaliers jersey. No one can convince me that his mind was not made up at that very moment. Maybe he didn’t know exactly where he would land, but he knew he wasn’t returning to Cleveland. So why then did Lebron James engage the lapdog media in a months long dog & pony show in which he made team after team grovel and kiss his ass in an effort to get him to sign a contract?? Why were the Cleveland Cavaliers lead to believe that they had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning that battle royale?? Why did a decision that is usually made behind closed doors and then dutifully reported on ESPN or your local sportscast turn into an hour-long television special that was the height of self-aggrandizement?? It was ridiculous, a complete joke of colossal proportions. It says a lot that I will be cheering for Ben Roethlisberger this fall despite the crime he was accused of and the errant lifestyle he leads, that I may not cheer for Tiger Woods but that I will not actively cheer against him and may even crack a slight smile when he returns to form and wins his next major, but I will never…ever…ever cheer for the Miami Heat as long as Lebron James is on their roster and will actively and fervently hope that they lose each and every time they step on the court. And I’m not even a Cavaliers fan. Your mileage may vary.
- Why Ben Roethlisberger Doesn’t Deserve a Shorter Suspension (bleacherreport.com)
- Does the Media Cover White Athletes More Favorably African-Americans? (bleacherreport.com)
- How Many Deadly Sins Have You Got? (plentyonyourplate.com)
- Seven Mortal Sins That Led LeBron James to “Take the Heat” (bleacherreport.com)
- The Seven Deadly Sins (socyberty.com)