August 11, 2011

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Who knew that all it would take for the Chicago Cubs to start winning was for them to be called out by the author of a little weekly newspaper editorial?

The ink hadn't even dried on my report about how bad my favorite team played when I was in attendance at the blow-out loss in St. Louis two Saturdays ago, before the loveable losers commenced on a seven-game winning streak, their longest of the season. The good times came to an end on Sunday with a loss to Washington, but a week's worth of winning had me feeling a bit guilty about calling out the team for already throwing the towel in.

At 49-66 on the year, the Cubs, while not yet mathematically eliminated, have no shot at a playoff berth. One can only hope they compete down to the wire and lay the groundwork for a better start to 2012.

Fortunately for me, no Cub players are picking up the Memphis Democrat to read how one of their fans feels about their efforts. I've always thought that being a columnist covering a professional team would be a difficult task. It would be great when things were going well. As a fan, you could follow the team closely and report on all the good news. But when times are tough for the team, it has to be a difficult task to provide the appropriate coverage for readers.

On one hand, you don't want to offend the players, coaches and management, who are the key sources for your material. Yet at risk of being considered a fair weather fan, one who loves a winner but abandons the team as soon as the tide turns, the reporter still has to cover the team when it's losing.

Sure, you can tell yourself that these guys are professionals, and if they aren't doing the job they are paid to do, then they are fair game for some criticism. But where do you draw the line?

I guess I've become a bit disillusioned by the growing trend to lambaste our pros when they don't live up to expectations. I suspect it comes with the territory. Pro athletes at the top of their game are placed upon the pedestal, receiving fame and fortune. For many, the natural response when they falter, is to go overboard trying to topple them from their perch.

I can honestly say, that while I cannot condone the hatred often associated with such efforts, there are certain athletes whose actions have warranted their downfall from fame. Tiger Woods' name jumps out at me, joining the ranks of Barry Bonds, Terrell Owens and Mike Tyson, athletes who were at the top of the world in their sports only to fall from grace with the fans.

Sure there are natural rivalries that turn athletes into villains if they play for the other team. Then there are personalities that just rub some fans the wrong way. I'm not big on showboats and trash talkers. Let your play do the talking for you.

Still others puzzle me. Ultimately I believe a lot of the negative emotion targeted towards athletes boils down to jealousy. How many of us wouldn't love to the be making all of that money to play a game? Or maybe we are simply envious of their ability? It definitely would be nice to be able to jump that high, run that fast or hit the ball that far.

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was the subject of an unflattering commentary regarding his abilities by ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge. He basically stated that in his opinion Tebow would not succeed as a NFL quarterback because he lacks accuracy and proper throwing mechanics.

That's the type of comment Hoge gets paid to make, offering his insight. Naturally it inflamed Tebow fans and the war of words began.

I wasn't surprised at all that folks disagreed with Hoge. But what followed in the war of words did alarm me. Many that came to his support, did so, by attacking Tebow for his faith. It became apparent many people don't like Tebow because he appears to be a strong Christian role model. I'm no NFL expert, so I won't weigh in on his future success in the league. I can only say I pray that he succeeds, as I can't imagine a better player for my kids to root for.

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