This past week has brough about an interesting juxtaposition in the Detroit sports scene.
Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley was arrested for a second time this offseason over the weekend for DUI and evading police. It brings doubt to the minds of fans that he had learned anything from his marijuana arrest earlier in the spring or that he’ll amount to anything more than wasted talent. This comes on top of Mikel Leshoure’s two run ins with police due to marijuana possession and Titus Young’s absence from the opening week of OTAs following a sucker punch of teammate Louis Delmas.
Meanwhile, reports are surfacing that Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will announce his retirement at a press conference tomorrow. In 20 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Lidstrom has accomplished it all: four Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe trophy, seven Norris trophies and 12 All-Star selections. History will regard him as one of the best defensemen of all time, yet as his career comes to a close Lidstrom is lauded for more than just his on-ice accomplishments. Here is just one tweet to that effect:
On Lidstrom retiring: his greatness wasn’t just measured by his incredible play on the ice, but just as much by his class off of it.
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) May 30, 2012
Red Wings fans should be proud of how Nicklas Lidstrom represented the organization. But does it matter?
Lions fans should be disgusted with the way a small group of players has sullied the team’s reputation. But does it matter?
It’s a question that I’ve thought a lot about in recent years. Professional athletes were larger than life figures when I was a child but I find myself increasingly rooting for particular teams with little regard for the players that wear the colors. Sure, I root for “good guys” around the league but when it comes to my team, I just want them to win. I watch sports as a form of entertainment; I’m not let down when a player makes a mistake off the field, I’m let down when they make a mistake on it.
Would I prefer that all athletes follow Lidstrom’s example of how to do things on and off the field of play? Of course, but that doesn’t change how I feel when I sit in my seat at the stadium or watch a game from home.
Commence obligatory Charles Barkley commercial: