When are fans culpable?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In light of all the Ray Rice business this week, and the other cases pending and previously involving NFL players and some college athletes, a real question needs to be asked of all of us fans: how complicit are we? How much do we contribute to the problem by giving our support to these various entities? In sports a popular view often espoused from fans of struggling teams is that 'we need fewer choirboys if we want to win'. Of course this doesn't apply to teams that are littered with legal troubles. But a lot of schools and pro teams that are getting manhandled on the field are often labeled wimps who need to get tougher, and the suggested solution is often to employ some more people who may live on the edge a little (or a lot) morally.

This applies to all forms of entertainment, really. You a TV or movie watcher? Several of those actors and actresses are physically and emotionally torturing themselves to reach and maintain the level of attractiveness required to play their roles for us. Drugs, crazy diets, insane workout routines, etc which sometimes result in mental breakdowns, drug busts, overdoses, eating disorders, you name it are par for the course. Music lover? A lot of those acts don't make it through a 60 city in 75 might tour on good old fashioned willpower and a good night's sleep, and many of them also face the same physical appearance demands that fall on their Hollywood brethren. And we don't even need to mention the fashion industry and all it's long documented problems.

I'm a wrestling fan. The conditions that those guys endured during the 80s and 90s are why so many of the guys from that era have been dropping dead at early ages ever since. Cross country travel in cramped rental cars, an almost nightly schedule running all year, no time off for injuries, and a pay schedule largely dependent on being able to work big shows no matter you condition were all the norm. And meeting those demands brought with them a reliance on painkillers to recover and steroids to build and maintain one's physique. As I got older, it became more difficult to ignore all of that. If the WWE hadn't taken the measures it has in recent years to make things better for the performers I wouldn't have a leg to stand on if I were forced to defend my fandom. And it took Chris Benoit killing himself and his family to spur a lot of those.

I'm not prescribing any answers here, or trying to shame anyone into dropping their entertainment choices. But as we further examine things like Ray Rice and domestic violence, a deeper look at how we as fans may help make things better is definitely in order.

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