By Joe Torosian
“Selfishness is the root of all evil in sports. When you’re only looking out for yourself, bad things happen. It’s about the team.”—Former MLB, Catcher, David Ross
The lowest hanging fruit in team sports is selfishness.
And it’s odd because team sports, by DNA, are intended to crush selfishness, and build character, but too often they produce the opposite result.
It is such a fine line for the entertainer, the preacher, the athlete to navigate between accepting appropriate accolades and giving away credit. Especially when everyone is in their ear, reminding them how marvelous they are.
I was watching Votaze Burfict run off the field after getting tossed—of course, the networks knew what they were doing when they zeroed in on him—and I saw his smile. Burfict is needed by the Oakland Raiders. He’s a terrific player, but the smile didn’t sit well. I would have preferred him throwing a fit and being escorted off the field, forcibly, because he didn’t want to leave his teammates.
We saw Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans prance along the goal line before scoring against the Rams on Sunday. We see countless athletes, and others, morph into actions that go beyond celebration and into selfishness. Often flags are thrown, and motivation is provided to opponents. But it is all okay because the player got to do their bit.
But the question begs, what else are they going to do? When the bright lights come on, and the recorders start recording? What else is a young man—a rich young man—supposed to do when he’s been told his entire life he’s marvelous?
How do you prevent selfishness from taking control—like the dark side of The Force—when coaches separate players and identify them as unique? How do you stop selfishness when contracts are exceeding $200-million?
These players are exceptional, they are talented, they are gifted, they are the outliers…why should we be surprised if they act selfishly?
Think about the Coach’s role. Isn’t the Coach, who wants to win, get better pay, better recognition, and a better job, forced to create that special niche for that special player? He can say he treats every player the same, and he very well might, and—most likely—will lose that crucial game. Which means he very well might not get that better job. Which means his current job might very well be thrust into jeopardy.
In our current culture, I don’t know how we stop selfishness once it reaches the team sports framework.
For the benefit of the athlete and potential star…and especially for the individual who shows up every day, there needs to be an answer.
I think a start might be by minimizing exposure to ESPN and online media. I think schools and parents have to grant the Coach a reasonable latitude when getting in the grill of their student/athlete…And support him/her openly through the process. The Coach needs to be able to tell a player they suck, they’re selfish, that they’re sitting, and, if the team loses, that it is their fault.
A good start…
But if the beast of selfishness is going to be tamed…It has to start at home. With parents who aren’t selfish…So right away, it gets tough because we all have a degree of selfishness when we are young and need to mature out of it.
As Lord Byron says; “We are all selfish, and I no more trust myself than others with a good motive.”
We need to understand that when we have kids—no matter our age or station in life—we are no longer kids. A kid shouldn’t raise a kid, a parent(s) should raise a kid…Because the signature DNA of a parent should be unselfishness.
And to be a parent willing to call out their own kid’s selfishness. Parents who are willing to let their child suffer a minor-injustice to learn a better lesson about honor and quality of character are the ones who can protect team sports from selfishness. (Oh and, by the way, put their kid on a better path in life.)
Will it cure it? No.
But imagine an unselfish product produced by a trio of parents, coaches, and admins… Imagine what that star-athlete can do in the life of his/her teammates as they give away praise at a rate higher than they receive it.
Twenty-one years as a sportswriter tells me I don’t have to imagine it…I’ve seen it…I just want to see more of it.
I think we all do.
The Dude abides…
Joe T. is the author of “Tangent Dreams: A High School Football Novel” … “Temple City & The Company of The Ages” … “The Dead Bug Tales” … “The Dark Norm” & “FaithViews for Storm Riders”…all five available through Amazon.com.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joet13b