A Look At The Problems In Sports Today

Jack AndersonSenior Analyst IMay 19, 2008

21st century sports do not resemble what your father watched back in the '60s and '70s. It has been a wild ride full of steroids, scandals, crime, and the overall degeneration of athletes. True viewers are able to witness faster, stronger athletes participate in sports, thus making for higher quality entertainment—but at a price.

Today’s athletes are spoiled, selfish prima donnas solely focused on the next endorsement or payday. They hold out for bigger contracts, they cause internal disaster within organizations and prove to be a disgrace to the sport to which they owe their livelihood.

Present day athletes are all about themselves and their "me first, team second" attitude leads to issues in every area. Athletes will do anything, even if it leads to eventual trouble, in order to separate themselves from the competition. They take illegal substances so that they can maximize their performance on the playing field.

This doesn’t send a good message to anyone looking up to these athletes, especially young kids coming in and out of high school. They see these rich superstars dominating a sport and say, “Why can’t I do this?” They want that success so they do what their “idols” do. They take steroids. This can even result in others taking steroids even if they wouldn’t normally take them, because they have to keep up with the athletes who initially took them.

So steroids are an obvious issue among younger amateur athletes. However, there is also a growing problem with colleges giving illegal benefits and gifts to their prospective students, most recently seen with the allegations against OJ Mayo and USC.

Colleges are willing to disregard NCAA rules because there is so much money at stake when it comes to winning. Boosters and alumni are more willing to give to a successful program. The better the bowl game a college goes to, the bigger the paycheck they receive. So colleges are willing to stretch the rules if it means they achieve more success.

The athletes, dazzled with the prospect of getting an early start to the high life, naturally accept the benefits. In this material world, athletic programs and athletes are only concerned with one thing: money. If the college will deliver money to the athlete, then the athlete will play for them so that the team can deliver money to the school.

When money leads to disrespect for the rules, problems like we are seeing now occur. Amateur sports contain so many athletes aspiring to be highly endorsed superstars that they will do anything to have it as quickly as possible. This just further sets a bad example to our middle schooler's and so now we have prima donnas infiltrating our sports programs at every level.

Another factor in this could be the overexposure sports undergoes. We live in a world where we are updated by the minute about each and every move athletes make. ESPN virtually tracks LeBron’s every sneeze and Tom Brady’s every snore.

Young kids watch these athletes prance around and tell the world about their every heartache so they think, “I deserve this and I’m gonna do whatever it takes to get it.” When every athlete is involved in a scandal, kids begin to become desensitized. They don’t think the scandals are that bad and even think, “This is what I need to do if I want to become a superstar.” They think this way because of the overexposure sports receives.

When kids set their sights on superstardom and are willing to pay any price to attain it, this allows agents to exploit them as well. Agents have been flirting with athletes at younger and younger ages. They have begun establishing relationships with athletes as they enter college, trying to score them as clients before they are even allowed to have agents.

Again, despite all their warm sentiments of caring about the athletes, all these agents really want is money. They want to sign the big clients before they are open to the whole market. This forces other agents to join in because they can’t get left behind. So there’s no trust between these colleges, athletes, and agents, only one common desire for wealth.

Looking at examples of corruption in college sports one can see that things are simply getting worse. Maurice Clarett believed he could fight the entire NFL and force his way in despite his ineligibility. So did Mike Williams. Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo accepted gifts to play at USC while LeBron was driving a Hummer before he was out of high school.

The NCAA has rules in place and they often use them, but it doesn’t seem to affect the choices made. The colleges, players, and agents have the right to do what they want, but they must accept the consequences. They break rules and so they get punished. It’s as simple as that. The issue is that so many of the players have nothing to lose because they are often caught after they have entered professional sports, so they can’t be punished as severely.

Clarett and Williams paid the price for their stupidity, but Bush won’t lose his money. He might lose his Heisman, but who cares? He was still the best player in college football that season and he is still raking in dough. Losing a trophy doesn’t really matter anymore to Reggie. Same with OJ Mayo who is going pro and can’t lose anything. The only time the NCAA’s rules affect athletes is when the athletes are still in college.

The colleges are the only party hurt by the violations. The colleges can lose bowl game privileges and the like for their infractions and this appears to be the best the NCAA can do. But it really isn’t a enough. The NCAA needs to find a way to have the colleges instill their athletes with some integrity through sports and education.

College is a maturation period that so many athletes ignore as they try to jump straight to the big time. They are truly missing an important step in their lives when they disregard college. Colleges don’t help the problem when they initiate the athletes into the corruption. There needs to be a call from some figure in the sporting world to end the corruption. If this would happen it would raise some awareness that the colleges need to find a way to have student athletes embrace this important stage of their life and it use it to properly grow into mature professionals that can set a good example to the aspiring.