Coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jim Boeheim are deemed passionate. At the same time, football player Dez Bryant and basketball player Marcus Smart are considered delinquent, undisciplined and out of control.
A double standard in sports makes a distinction between player and coach conduct. Perpetuated by the media, it unfairly victimizes players and withholds judgment of coaches, ultimately condemning the behavior of some and excusing that of others.
Jim Harbaugh’s antics convey passionate, for example, even when they lead to penalties – because what fan doesn’t want a head coach careening across the field to protest a call? Dez Bryant, on the other hand, was harangued for a week after cameras spotted him yelling at his quarterback and offensive coordinator on the sideline.
When audio of the “altercation” surfaced, revealing that Dez was only imploring his coach and teammate that they were “better than this,” no apologies for the willful defamation of Bryant’s character were made; instead, the media moved on to the next guy.
The passes we give to coaches seem to be finite resources that are simply too valuable to allocate to players. Never mind their age and maturity differences that should reasonably lead people to be understanding and empathic. The only relevant factor is the fundamental dichotomy that exists within every sport’s power structure: players and coaches.
This standard goes deeper than the media, though, because the media merely shows us what we want to see. And so this slanted coverage is illustrative of a more troubling trend sweeping sports.
Born out of the growing “fantasy” culture, fans now have a misplaced sense of ownership that they extend over players which, invariably, isn’t extended to coaches (players are drafted; coaches are not).
Believing that a player’s existence is solely defined in terms of how much they help their fantasy teams, fans dehumanize players into one-dimensional caricatures of themselves – jocks dribbling basketballs or catching footballs, with little worth otherwise.
To keep up this charade, players must conform to these obtuse heuristics. Coaches have no such demands; they need only to win.
We are then left with a strange phenomenon that holds the older and more mature leaders to a lesser standard than the young and still growing players, whose actions must not get in the way of their owners’ wishes – or else.
Corey Janson is a senior majoring in psychology and political science.