Should We Enjoy Talent Regardless of Character?

posted in: Sports and Culture | 0

Reading this article on Spycatcher about the Woody Allen case, Joe Navarro mentions a theory that has been floated out there about artists:

One well-meaning clinician wrote in a major op-ed piece that “it’s essential to separate the art from the artist not only for philosophical reasons but also for practical ones.” She further added, “…if we delved into the private lives of every single artist…we’d find plenty not to like… It’s possible we’d never see a movie, look at a work of art, or read a book again.”

That may be true, but Joe disagrees.

You can’t separate behavior that shapes our character from life – life is about how we comport ourselves all of the time, not just when we are being artistic as is implied, but most certainly when we are alone with a child.

This discussion got me thinking about sports. Truthfully, if we want to be honest with ourselves, we tend to ignore character flaws with our sports heroes, so long as they play for our team. But should we? Are we not contributing to the very flaws that allow for the bad behavior in the first place? When we tell an athlete that we don’t care about his personal life, just what he does on the field, are we not implying that he can do whatever he wants off the field, as long as he plays the game well?

Surely, if we looked close enough at many athletes, there would be a whole lot not to like. If I had kids, I’d probably not let them hang out with some of the same people I root for as a fan. But I tell myself that it’s ok, I’m not condoning anything about their personal life, just rooting for my team.

Is that really ok? Is it really ok that Michael Sam’s sexual preference is a reason for some teams, and fans, to not root for him, but Ray Rice’s arrest for domestic violence this week isn’t? Why can’t we demand more of our sports stars, our movie stars, all of our famous people? Why is character an after thought instead of the first thing we look for in our heroes?

Why can’t we tell people with deep character flaws that no, it’s not ok that you act this way just because you have some other talent? How far does someone have to sink before we can say, “you know what, I’m not going to root for this person, and I’m not going to support their team financially while they have that player”?

Based on what I’ve seen in sports so far, I’m not sure that level exists, unless you know, they’re gay or something.

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