It's often said that the news media only reports plane crashes and not landings.
Lately it seems that much of the news coming from the sports world has as much to do with crashes as it does with landings. As murder charges, doping, gambling, domestic assault, steroid use and cheating allegations have dominated of late, the sports press has begun to read more like the local crime beat section. But to focus only on the human imperfections of certain athletes seems to only partially hit the mark.
The truly inspiring stories are about those athletes who dedicate their livelihoods to their sport, and relentlessly train every day so they may have just a shot at standing in the winner's circle or on the podium.
At some level, it comes down to whether the glass is viewed as half-empty or half-full. Although 13 baseball players were suspended this week, 738 other major league players played. They showed up, played hard (as they do for 162 games a year), not to sensational headlines, but to play the game fairly and according to the rules.
They threw 100 mph fastballs, climbed outfield walls, made improbable catches and hit walk-off home runs to earn victories for their teams. "I was always taught to do the right thing, to do what's right in your heart," said Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino. "You play this game for the love of it."
In the past week, there have been many stories highlighting the perseverance, sacrifice and work ethic required to be a winner, a champion. At the World Swimming Championship in Barcelona, Spain, 18-year-old Missy Franklin won six gold medals – becoming only the fifth swimmer in history to accomplish such a feat. Another young American swimmer, 16-year-old Katie Ledecky, won four golds and set two world records. Across the pond, Ladies Professional Golf Association player Stacy Lewis overcame childhood scoliosis to become the first U.S. player to win the British Open since 2006.
Off the playing field, athletes were also showing their generosity. After his Friday round at the Bridgepoint Invitational, 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson surprised more than 60 people at Chipotle by buying them all dinner. At a press conference announcing his contract extension with the Washington Wizards, guard John Wall announced that he is giving $1 million to D.C. charities. "It's a humbling experience and great opportunity to sign this contract, but it's not about just me," Wall said. "I want to donate my time along with my money."
Sports allow us to suspend our own realities as we marvel at heroic feats and as the athlete's achievements are glorified. We laugh, cry, celebrate and gloat, depending on the outcome of a particular game or match. As we're all human (athlete and non-athlete) and thus imperfect, there will be inevitable disappointments.
It's my hope that, whether it's the sensationalizing media, or just fans around the water cooler at work, we can all remember how special and extraordinary the athletic feats are that are performed in an ordinary manner, day in and day out, by athletes of all shapes and sizes, playing every imaginable sport. With some luck, maybe there will be more landings than crashes focused on in the future.