Vent against athletes shows power of social media

A cheerleader wrote a blog post earlier this week comparing club sports with Division I sports that caused a firestorm of responses from athletes and non-athletes alike. Things like this are a big deal at a school like Canisius where everybody pretty much knows everybody.

If you aren’t familiar with the post, the author vented her frustrations with the way athletes carry themselves, writing, “Sometimes I look at these D1 athletes and I wonder if they even love their sport or they’re just doing it for the free ride.”

You can check out the full posts (and subsequent comments) at cheerdummy.wordpress.com if you want to find out more. Hold your jokes about the redundancy of that title while we consider the facts.

One phenomenon of social media is that it gives people an outlet to share their inner-most selves, unfiltered and more honest than they could ever be in person. It’s interesting how something about the fact that the person your tweet, status or blog post is directed at won’t know it’s about them, won’t see it, probably won’t see it, or at least won’t be able to say something back to your face about it gives people the confidence to publish thoughts they would normally keep to themselves.

That’s not to say the author of the post published it there to hide behind a computer screen. That’s not the case at all. As she later noted, she’s run the blog for months and never had more than 70 hits in a day. It was just a place to get a few feelings out and maybe hit a few requirements for a class along the way.

You can’t fault somebody for publishing an opinion – this is America, after all – and the underlying frustrations with Division I athletes on campus aren’t limited to club sport participants. A lot of people resent athletes for their scholarships, their wardrobe of Griff logo clothes and any of the other perks associated with playing a D-I sport.

But forget for a second that player apparel packs cost money and there are players who don’t get a dime from athletics toward tuition. Even if every single student-athlete were here all-expenses-paid, what would be wrong with that? They are good at what they do and they got a coach to offer them a free ride. That’s a great opportunity that they’d be foolish not to take. Don’t direct your anger at the athletes when you’re really mad at the system.

I get both sides of the argument. I play club hockey here and I know firsthand what it’s like to be treated differently by people when they realize you’re not on the “real” team. I was choking down vending machine PopTarts on a road trip when I saw pictures of the buffet the basketball team had in Las Vegas. And I definitely wish a medical staff and training facilities had been available to me right on campus after I broke my leg representing the Blue and Gold during a game in December. You give it everything you have whether it’s intramurals, club sports or the MAAC Championship, but the school only cares about you if you’re competing for the latter. That’s a hard pill to swallow when you first come to college.

But being the sports editor of the paper, I’ve gotten to know the faces behind the stat sheets and I now know most of athletes on campus (if we haven’t met, feel free to introduce yourself). I spend far more time watching their games and researching their stats than I do on my schoolwork, but I’m also the only kid on campus who gets paid to care about their teams and understand their problems. (Granted, it works out to like $1 an hour, but it’s something.)

If you’re still not convinced, look at the top of this page. It says SPORTS in big letters. There’s no NARP section of the paper. Just sports. (NARP, of course, is an acronym for “non-athlete regular person” athletes use to describe the mortals on campus.) One quarter of this publication is devoted to coverage of our athletes and their endeavors and I spend hours a day making sure we do it well.

So where to go from here? If you wanted to attack the “regular people” out there, you’d tell them to get over themselves and just accept the fact that there are people in the world who are going to be better than them at things and they get perks that everyone else doesn’t. College athletics are a billion-dollar industry nationally, and even at a low mid-major school like Canisius where athletes are closer to Joe Average, college student than Joe Moneybags, professional athlete or even Joe Randle, Big 12 running back, they get treated differently and no amount of complaining will ever change that.

If you wanted to attack the athletes, you could just go around with a big sign that says “WE GET IT,” because everyone knows who the athletes are long before they walk into class dressed head-to-toe in Griff gear. That’s not to clump every athlete into one group, but for the most part, it aggravates classmates (and faculty – they talk too) that athletes wear sweats/warm-up suits/hoodies every day and that they never go anywhere without their posse and that a sense of entitlement seems to be something they put on every day after deodorant.

Disgruntled athletes might say that maybe if NARPs spent as much time lifting weights or practicing as they did complaining about everything, maybe they’d be the ones with the scholarships. Annoyed non-athletes might say maybe if athletes spent more time worrying about athletics instead of commenting on blogs, maybe they’d actually win something once in a while. Maybe that’s where they went after they bailed on the men’s basketball game last Friday, to surf the blogosphere, because Lord knows they might miss something important if they stayed to cheer on a Canisius team any longer than the Athletes-for-Athletes event required.

So here’s what it comes down to: Regular people, suck it up and deal with it. Life’s not fair. Athletes are athletes and a lot of the resentment you have comes from wishing you were a little bit more like them. You’re here for the education; worry about yourself. If you really need something to get you through the day, think back to your high school graduation and remember the speech your valedictorian probably gave about being the boss someday.

And athletes, chill out. Cory Conacher was way better at sports than anybody still here and he never acted for a second like he was better than anyone; even though we all knew that he was. For a collective group of people who are supposed to be above it all, you sure care an awful lot about what one person said about you. Leave the girl alone and focus on your upcoming season. There’s plenty there to keep you busy.