Even in our libidinous times, athletes face tremendous pressures to behave when in the company of women and even when they think that they are minding their own business. What is it about athletes that draws the attention of women and also makes us anxious to read the next tidbit of gossip?
In fact, women have an interesting corollary problem. A woman who is seriously interested in a male athlete may be gossiped about as a fortune seeker.
Even average people have some difficulty in the modern gossipoholic times. For instance, if you go to a land based casino just for fun, you might be cited for ogling some pretty young thing. It won’t matter if the young lady dressed in a provocative manner.
At the poker table, you might go up against a female player who is following in the footsteps of Jennifer Tilly, wearing a very low cut top just to throw you off your game.
The same might be the case at the blackjack table. So, for many men and even some women, the best solution to the problem of the overt sexuality of land based casinos is to play online blackjack.
Sports and Young Athletes
This article will look at the sports that are the most difficult for athletes from the gossip standpoint. We will see that not all sports are created equal in this regard.
College athletes usually have a somewhat easier time when they are away from home because the colleges themselves make extra effort to make sure the athletes don’t “get into trouble”. Trouble can obviously have a sexual overtone but it can also have a gambling overtone as Michael Jordan found out at the height of his illustrious career.
Guilty of Being Away from Home While Young
The biggest problem athletes face is when they are away from home. In his great book about baseball, “Ball Four”, Jim Bouton wrote about a wife who called for her husband at 5:00 am. He wasn’t in his room. His roommates told his wife that he was out playing golf.
In the book, Bouton related that the player’s wife thought it was a joke. Today, the story might make headlines.
Young men and women, away from their comfortable domestic lives, are faced with the toxic brew of youthful hormones, boredom, and adoring if not loving “fans”.
Football: American and International
The schedules of football teams are such that no team need be away from home for more than one night. In American football, teams play usually once a week on either Sunday or Monday so they spend one or at the most two nights on the road.
It is a lot easier for football players to control their libidos when they are home most of the time.
Hockey and Basketball
On the one hand, hockey and basketball teams have such insane schedules that they fly into a city, play a game that night or the following night, and fly out immediately. Such quick in and out scheduling makes it difficult to have quick encounters with other people.
Still, where there is a will there is often a way and some athletes and their in-city hookups schedule “meetings” in advance. At least this is planned. It isn’t a syndrome of young athletes roaming the city looking for some action.
This is by far the sport that makes it hardest on players. In the major leagues, teams usually play nine games away from home at a stretch. They stay in high-class hotels for two or three nights and then fly off to another high-class hotel.
They may have one off day during that stretch so they are in another city, not their own, for a full day with no serious commitments to take care of. Being away from home, from family and friends, being followed by adoring groupies puts tremendous pressure on young athletes.
The Vital Role of Leadership
Every sports team needs to use the time away from home as character building time and as time to come together as a team. The Chicago Blackhawks, who were as pathetic as a team could get in the National Hockey League, won three Stanley Cup championships in the second decade of this century. A great deal of the credit is attributed to the leadership shown by Jonathan Toews, their young captain.
His leadership skills extended far beyond the games themselves or in the locker room. He was as important as a leader in those long hours on the road between games as he was during games.
Most baseball teams have players from Latin America including from Cuba. These players, especially the ones from Cuba, can suffer on the field as they go through bouts of homesickness and culture shock. Some never learn English well enough to speak without a translator. But most importantly, and to their credit, most teams keep a veteran on hand to help guide these young players in the difficult obstacles they face being young, virile, wealthy, and vulnerable.
We Will Never Get Rid of Gossip
People will always talk about each other. For athletes, the most important lessons may be the ones they learn outside of the playing field, rinks, or courts.
In fact, not only will we never get rid of gossip, a Professor at Oxford, Robert Dunbar, wrote a book about how beneficial gossip is to society. In his book, Professor Dunbar cited five benefits of gossip. It helps people become better people, it shows society where it is weak and needs to become stronger, it protects society from social predators, it creates trust, and it relieves stress.
The professor may be on to something in the macro but in the micro-world of young athletes we find it difficult to see how gossip can produce trust or relieve stress. It seems that the professor is conflating constructive societal criticism with gossip.
In the End
Athletes will not quit their sports over gossip. But as a society, we might take a long, hard look at the difference between positive and constructive talk and destructive gossip.