Is Being an Athlete Really So Hard?

Posted: December 30, 2010 in Fans and Opinions, Misc.
Tags: , , , , ,

By Phil Bausk

We have seen it time and time again in today’s sports culture. A talented young athlete does something really stupid, followed by something else really stupid, says he is going to change his attitude, and then gets strike three by doing a final stupid act. This is something that has always amazed me as a fan, and a jealous onlooker wishing to be in the same situation as some of these young athletes.

On Dec. 23rd, at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii (A place where I can never see myself doing anything to upset anyone), Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney, en extremely talented, but extremely troubled Power Forward, was caught by TV cameras wailing on teammate Elgin Bailey. Sidney had just come off an 18 month suspension, where the NCAA was investigating questions about his eligibility and whether or not he took money during his recruiting process.

Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, I am not one to judge a high school kid for taking money to help his family out in a time of need. I completely get that side of Sidney and I can see how he would feel it was something he needed to do. Bigger schools such as UCLA and USC reneged scholarship offers to Sidney because of his immaturity outweighing his talent. He was forced to take a scholarship at the much less prestigious Miss. St.  and any national spotlight he dreamed of at a bigger school had vanished.

Clearly UCLA and USC knew exactly what they were doing by reneging their scholarship offers. I am sorry, but I don’t care what this kids background is that after being under the harsh scrutiny of the NCAA for nearly 2 years, and then being suspended for a full season, you still have the mental capacity to get into a fistfight in the stands with a teammate. There are so many guys who would kill for Sidney’s size, talent, and durability (myself included). You can’t just turn the other cheek and walk away? You can’t wait until being away from the court? You really needed to sock your teammate with a national audience? I guess that’s one way of getting the national attention Sidney has been craving since being one of the top High School recruits since Lebron James. Sidney is now suspended indefinitely, and his college basketball career at Miss. St. is more than likely to be over.

I have been playing sports at a relatively high level for most of my life. Whether it was night time baseball games with other college bound players at Pace University, or pickup basketball games with members of the White Plains and Mount Vernon High schools, I have dreamed of having the abilities that some of these guys possess. I was blessed with a competitive edge, a decent amount of ability, and the background to allow me to pursue sports free of pressure and care. I was not blessed with body parts that could keep up with my level of activity, leaving me where I am now, working from a desk, praying I wake up one day with a brand new body. So it is easy to see how I can be extremely upset with the actions of a player like Renardo Sidney.

I have seen the other side of things. I have seen kids who struggle to have the equipment necessary to play. I’ve spoken to guys who couldn’t afford to go to a certain college unless they got large scholarships. I see what is sacrificed just to go out and compete, and perhaps create a future for someone and their family. This is why i feel no compassion for Renardo Sidney.

Sidney is just one on a long list of athletes who have made similar mistakes in the past. Lenny Cooke was an amazing basketball talent coming out of High School in 2002. He was compared by some to Lebron James, and was supposed to be the can’t miss talent that every GM raves about. However, he accidentally exhausted his 4 years of high school without realizing and couldn’t play organized basketball for a full year before the draft. Other stories leaked of Cooke receiving gifts and speaking with agents way before he was supposed to. Cooke entered the draft, but went unselected. Cooke’s propensity to do the wrong thing off the court scared teams, and he never made it to the NBA, a place where he could have made real money, and supported his family for generations to come.

The list goes on and on. Guys such as Michael Vick (who has turned it around obviously, but still missed 2-3 years of his prime), Maurice Clarett, Lawrence Phillips, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, and others have had similar character issues. These guys had all of the physical tools to become superstars, and to maintain that level of stardom for a long time. While Vick has seen the error of his ways, a lot of guys spend most of their careers looking for that answer and never seem to find it.

The interesting argument would be to put yourself in their shoes. Do you think you could have done more with their talent? Do you think you could have avoided the drug problems or money problems that these players faced in their attempts to become great? It is hard to just say yes, considering I have never been in a Queens club with Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, and 3 pounds of blow right next to me. I have also never been so angry at a woman who was spending my money that I needed to sock her in the face, making her eye as swollen as my ego. I think I would be able to resist throwing a TV out of 20 story hotel room though, sorry Mike Tyson, there’s just way too much wrong with you.

Renardo Sidney is just another guy who isn’t going to make it. In a few years, he will look back on his career and wish that he did things much differently. It is hard not to look at a player like Sidney and feel any compassion for him. He had the tools, he had the opportunity, but he didn’t have the common sense. Whether he is overseas playing basketball, or working the midnight shift at a 24 hour Dennys, Sidney will always regret his decision to fight his teammate, and whenever he needs a reminder, he can go down to the local library and search his name, and it will be the first thing that comes up.


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