Good Deeds Go Unseen in Sports
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 02:12
Sports are often dirty. There is a lot of tension on the field, and we relish the aggressiveness and chaos of the competitive culture. Lately, though, this has unfortunately led to scandal, controversy and foul play. Frankly, I am tired of all the negativity.
Thankfully, a story from last week changed my spirits, as NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo became synonymous with the proverbial “spirit of Christmas.” While on patrol, the 25-year-old cop bought a pair of boots for a homeless man lying on the street near Times Square. A picture of the act was posted on the NYPD Facebook page, where it has been viewed over 1.6 million times.
It is an inspiring and heartwarming story, as well as the kind of moment that makes you wonder whether you would do the same. Sometimes it takes a Facebook post capturing a spontaneous moment of goodwill to change our minds and direct our sympathy. Of course, it is not only figures like DePrimo that we can look up to these days.
While children everywhere idolize athletes for their performances on the field, court or ice, it is important to remember that many are on the front lines of philanthropy as well. You already hear about the big names quite a lot: Lance Armstrong, who has raised more than $400 million to fight against cancer; Magic Johnson, who founded a highly successful HIV-awareness program; Doug Flutie, who is one of the strongest advocates for autistic children. Derek Jeter, Muhammad Ali, Cal Ripken Jr., Jeff Gordon and many others have created their own charities and foundations. There are deep, personal connections to the communities involved, as many athletes have suffered from disease or injury and want to help others experiencing the same problems.
Some do it to make amends for past transgressions. After running a dog-fighting ring for several years, Michael Vick now performs charity work with animal rights groups, even appearing at speaking events to promote the cause. Penn State, meanwhile, participates in children’s charities after going through a horrendous child abuse scandal this year. After such serious falls from grace, the road to redemption is indeed a steep hill to climb. But one way or another, they have resolved to pay back the debt they feel they owe to society.
Although there is such goodwill in sports, it is often pushed aside by the headlines. There are drug busts, dirty hits, money laundering, nasty fights, foul language and sex scandals. When our supposed role models betray our trust in these ways, it is often a struggle to relate. At other times, the opposite is true, and the heroes in facemasks and eye-black seem too famous and too popular to know what it is like to live down on our level.
Yet this stipulation is not quite accurate. For every coach or player that does something completely asinine, there are many more who make positive contributions to society. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I firmly believe that campaigns like “NBA Cares” and partnerships like the NFL and United Way of America are more than just public-relations stunts. That they are genuine. That players do care.
With all of their flashy plays and fabulous contracts, athletes could easily just soak it all in and live in their own bubbles. Some certainly do, and you hear about them a lot in the media. The guys that do not get covered as much are the ones that perform those humble acts of service. You are more likely to hear about Ndamukong Suh kicking a quarterback in the groin than Larry Foote paying for the funeral of a complete stranger.
Unfortunately, the good side of people does not sell as many papers. But there is a good side. You can see it in a $400 million charity, a $75 pair of boots or a priceless smile on the street. It does not have to get reported, but at the very least it should be recognized.
Nick Fedyk is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. This is the final appearance of MORE THAN A GAME this semester.