Maybe it’s just my misconception of why people watch and follow sports. It seems like they’re held to too high a standard at the worst possible times. Because we’re asking people completely unequipped to deal with serious, life-changing issues… to say and do things that we’d imagine we do if put in the same spot. Even though the likelihood is that we’d freeze in a similar fashion, even though most of consider ourselves to be far more well-read and informed that the average bear on whatever the outrage is that day.
That’s what I was thinking when I watched the Kyle Beach interview on TSN, when he decided to reveal himself as John Doe in the lawsuit against the Blackhawks over his allegations of sexual assault at the hands of Brad Aldrich, as detailed in the Jenner report. I urge you to watch it if you haven’t, though fair warning: I had to break it into sections. It was too hard to take at once, and I can’t fathom how he did it. How he does any of it.
And as I watched it, I became utterly shocked and disgusted that Joel Quenneville and the Florida Panthers, and the NHL, could just turn their head from it and allow Quenneville to be behind the bench last night for the Panthers game against the Bruins? How could they turn their heads and be so craven?
But then, we watch people be so craven every day. Every newspaper or news site is filled with stories about the local, state, or federal government overlooking actual people’s pain and struggles to do something awful — or to do nothing. Look at what the Democrats did just yesterday to appease one fucking shithead senator. We see this all the time.
Quenneville’s and the Panthers’ cowardice in not having him answer questions after the game? Yeah, we see that too: the shirking of accountability and responsibility. We see it in every facet.
Before I go any further, this isn’t meant as some kind of white flag to it all. It’s not to simply label sports, society, the world all completely lost and why even bother feeling anything. That’s not productive either. And it’s not the truth. There’s plenty of good stuff every day (take Hum’s last album, for instance). Sports is no different. It’s not good or bad in totality. It’s all of it at once. You can find those and everything, in between, every day.
That includes those who try and push things from bad to good. If you’re reading this website or any site like it, it’s because you’re not afraid, and want to know about the things that are wrong as well as the things you and we enjoy. Though I have no illusions about it being not much more than a fart in the wind, I write here partially to call attention to what I can.
No question that the past couple days of the Hawks and Beach have been truly awful. It’s the worst kind of abdication of responsibility that comes from power that we’ve seen in some time in sports (though not as much time as we’d like, sadly). Those in charge ruined lives. Multiple lives. And they did it merely out of selfishness, laziness, cowardice. There’s no way to dress it up.
People are confused, unpredictable, evil, good, panicky, dumb, smart, whatever else on any given day. We lose that idea a lot when things like this happen and demand a higher standard, and then get disappointed when sports fall short. Which, of course, they will — often.
We watch Rob Manfred duck and cover and shove the envelope wherever he can to make sure it isn’t on his desk — the latest iteration of that being Atlanta and The Chop. We see that kind of buck-passing from those who could actually do something all the time because it might cost them, or someone they work for, a dollar. That’s where we’re at.
All the issues we face in society as a whole are right here in sports. Racism, homophobia, misogyny, the prioritizing of profit over all else… the fights are all the same on different scales. As devastating as it is to watch Beach feel the need to apologize to another Brad Aldrich survivor — and he is the absolute last person who should be apologizing — they’re both hardly the first survivor to not only have nowhere to turn for far too long, but to find people turning away from them. The work continues.
We try to push it to be better, as we do all of society, but that process is never linear. There are horrible steps back and potholes. And yet we keep moving forward, because there really is no other way.
We look to athletes to say something to justify the labels we’ve attached to them, and get wildly upset when they don’t live up to standards that they themselves never set, but we set for them. It should just be a bonus when they do, but it’s become the expectation — as if they aren’t the same cross-section of people with all the same flaws and shortcomings that any grouping would be.
Again, this isn’t surrender or anything close. We all keep working to make both society and sports around us better. It hurts when we see just how far we have to go, and it can feel completely futile. But to expect to get there instantly, it only leads to heartache. Progress is drip-fed, which can be frustrating more often than it is heartening. But it is progress, as ugly and slow as it feels a lot of the time.