Stop Berating Professional Athletes Online

Stop Berating Professional Athletes Online

It's just so unnecessary.

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Growing up, every middle school maverick who could pick up a baseball wanted to play professionally, myself included. What we failed to realize, however, is that playing a sport that's broadcasted across time zones and countries as your occupation, not only requires unwavering work ethic and determination beyond talent, but also comes with the immediate immersion into the public eye.

In St. Louis, the sports community prides itself on backing teams through torrential seasons or cheering for opposing players when they make star-studded plays. Unfortunately, with the way Jake Allen and Dexter Fowler have been treated by members of the Blues and Cardinals fandoms, it's discouraging.

That's not to say that the majority of St. Louis fans berate or wish ill on these players and that's not to say it doesn't happen in other cities with other players because it most certainly does. But for a city that prides itself on being "Baseball Heaven", we shouldn't be having players speak out after the season about dealing with mental health issues due to the number of people bagging him online. He's been playing baseball his entire life, he knows when he's playing well and when he's not, and he doesn't need to hear it from the people who are supposed to be rooting for him to succeed.

I think we are so quick to judge, and the salaries that these players earn make it easy to, but we have to realize, at the end of the day, that these players are humans too and are cyberbullied to an extent far worse than most people on this planet and just because they've acquired a platform does not make them immune to the pain that words can produce.

Take Jake Allen for example. A former 1st round pick, highly touted goalie prospect who has had multiple seasons as an adequate goalie in the league.

Has he gone through slumps? Absolutely. Most goalies have.

But the way fans treated him during those slumps, blaming him entirely for losses, using him as the scapegoat as to why the team hasn't won a Cup yet, does not help his mental confidence. The deterioration we've seen in his play is a direct result of that and the fact that his statistics in away games are better than his stats at home points directly toward that.

So next time you're watching a game, regardless of the city you live in, what sport it is, or how bad your team is, and you're tempted to tweet or message the player on social media regarding their performance, do yourself a favor, the sports world a favor, and that player who has worked so hard to get where they are a favor, and put the phone down.

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Everything The Student Athlete Loses When They Move On From Sports

Enjoy it while it lasts.

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We used to call it "flipping the switch." You would go through eight hours of school (somehow) and then your mentality would automatically change. The worries and stress from the school day would dwindle as you put on your cleats and begin to warm up. Anything that was going on in your life didn't matter when you hit the dirt. You create lifelong friendships with the girls you spent every day with for months at a time. Teammates who see you susceptible after a bad game and on cloud nine after one of your bests.

You develop a routine and superstitions. Hitting your bat on the inside of your cleat before you hit, chewing a certain type of gum on the volleyball court, how many times you spin the ball before you shoot a free throw, whatever your quirk was, you 100% believed it would make you play better. You practice in your free time with your dad, devote three to five months of your school year to a team, and play all summer long with your travel team as you live off hotel breakfast. Then one day, it's all over.

It is a feeling that nobody can prepare you for. They say enjoy it while it lasts but you never really understand what you'll be walking away from when you play your last game and hang it up for good. You lose a part of yourself when you're no longer an athlete. I forgot what it feels like to be competitive and be a part of something that is bigger than myself. It has been two years since I've played my last softball game and not a day goes by when I don't miss it. I didn't play because I wanted to go pro or even to the collegiate level, but I played because it was an escape and helped me become who I am.

You begin to forget what it felt like to hit the sweet spot on a bat, what it sounded like to have an audience cheer for you as you stand alone on second base and see your family in the stands, to hear the metal spikes of your cleats on concrete when walking in the dugout. It's simple things about the game you love that brought you pure joy and an escape from the world and the thoughts in your head. Batting practice was always mine. Focusing on nothing but the next pitch and how hard I could hit it.

When you have to watch the game from the other side of the fence, you realize how much pressure you put on yourself when you played. It's just a game. Make as many memories as you can and enjoy every inning because when you leave sports behind you have to find your inner athlete in other things. Create a workout routine, joining a club sport or intramurals, or even becoming a coach. As much as I miss the sport, I am thankful for everything it brought me. It taught me how to be a good friend, respect others around me, and to push myself to discover what I was capable of.

So, enjoy it while it lasts.

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It's Been A Year And I Still Miss It

The memories with my teammates and coaches are remembered everyday.

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Never thought I'd say it but here I am. I am happy to say I am proud to be where I am today but the thoughts of never playing a sport again linger in my mind. Those emotions of anticipation and excitement when it comes to playing a sport are long gone. Sad to say I will never have butterflies before running a race, floor burns all over my knees and sweat mixed with softball dirt all over me.

The little aspects that I took for granted are what I remember the most. I am who I am today because of my coaches and teammates. Each and every sport came with a support system to fall back on and friendships that would last a lifetime. My coaches and teammates taught me life long skills that I will carry with me forever. They taught me the true meaning of dedication, teamwork, perseverance and respect. Yes, I love the game but the connections and memories I have built have impacted me. Especially, the times I have created with my teammates and coaches on the bus rides, practices and game days.

Those are the moments I will never get back. I will never forget the times my volleyball teammates and I would run over to Perkins after a win. We would eat junkie, greasy food till our tummies were full but during those moments we were all owning the moment while being young and careless. Even during track season my teammates and I found time to have fun while running rigorous workouts. I will never forget the mid-dance parties during track meets to keep our mind off of the stress of performing to our best ability. Softball season always seemed to be on the road, which meant plenty of bus rides with my teammates. Those hours of traveling were the best from the never have I ever games to singing along to great hits.

I will never get the chance again to compete in front of a crowd. The cheers and the roars of the fans is such a surreal feeling. Running on the blue oval was something I will never forget. As much as I hated the queasy, uneasy feelings before running, I would go back for it one more time. Stepping foot on the blue oval meant a great athlete once took those same steps I did. The moment my teammates, coaches and I clinched the win to go to State for the first time in school history was unbelievable. It was an accomplishment for us seniors, for our coaches, for our families and fans, for our school and for the past softball players. We did something that was never done before in school history and all I can say is I'm proud to have done it with the group of girls that I did.

Getting to state and playing with the best of the best is remarkable but what seemed to be even better was getting a victory against a city rival. Everyone came out for those games from grandparents to students to alumni. Our best performances were amongst us when competing against city rivals. Particularly, through volleyball, my teammates and I seemed to be hungrier for a win whenever it was a city rival. I guess, the best moments happened when we beat a cross-town rival. You could say we got bragging rights for the year.

To all the athletes out there competing in their last game, last match or last race, relish in those last seconds because before you know it you will never pick up a ball again, race in a relay or dance after a victory.

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