There’s not always a “bad guy” and “good guy”

By Jim Lee

The recent outbreak of violence at sporting events nudged me into some reflection. Something really big usually has to happen to jumpstart my thought processes, so those nasty little episodes with the athletes and spectators must be something more than hype to get us to gawk at CNN. Getting my mind in gear is no small accomplishment considering that my clutch went out about 20 years ago.
To me, the term sports means competition between sportsmen. I don’t exclude women from sports, but it wasn’t sportswomen launching themselves into brawls. Women have enough sense to compete without a declaration of war.
Aren’t sportsmen supposed to be gentlemen? Aren’t they supposed to set an example for young people? Don’t they make enough money to be held at a higher standard because kids regard them as role models (whether the athletes regard themselves as such or not)?
Since fame and fortune are claimed as their right by these sweaty millionaires, maybe their behaving responsibly can be claimed as the right of the fans who put out the money to make these guys rich.
Whatever happened to the gentlemen of sports I remember as a kid, people like Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Unitas? These pros didn’t make anywhere near what their counterparts earn now, even when adjusting for inflation, and they were decent people in public who seemed to enjoy being good role models.
What happened?
Shall we blame it on 9/11 just like we conveniently blame so many other things? Or shall we take a closer look? Could this be part of the changes gradually escalating over the past 13 years or so?
If so, perhaps we are experiencing a xenophobic vacuum that began with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting demise of the so-called Cold War. Maybe we need the “them and us” mentality that the Cold War so cheerfully provided.
Remember the extraterrestrial invasion and monster movies of the 1950s? Those space meanies were symbols of the nasty commies making us build bomb shelters and canonize Joe McCarthy — and the blood-hungry critters represented the fear of mass destruction unleashed by evil science.
This particular threat is gone now, so how can we have good guys without the bad guys? What happens to our common identity when we are not collectively facing the threat of a real or fantasized annihilation? The “them and us” becomes just “us.” The “them” becomes a vacuum yearning, as do all vacuums, to be filled.
So, naturally, we find something to fill it with, something to hate. Then this is aggravated by 9/11, showing us evil has not been eradicated, but declaring war on terrorism is like buying a boat and not finding a lake.
We need something easily identified and defined. We need something specific to hate.
So we turn our inherent xenophobia inward. We start hating our neighbor because their dog barks. We return to the racism we had nearly defeated. Foreigners can no longer be trusted. The other team becomes the enemy rather than the friendly adversary.
This violence at sporting events is more than it seems. Much more. We better take a closer look and start thinking about our values, my friends. The enemy is inside the walls, so don’t weld the gates shut.

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: