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Column: On expectations and hypocrisy

Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2012, at 2:23 AM

There are expectations that come with putting on a sports uniform of any kind.

Call it unfair, call it wrong, call it wonderful, call it a privilege -- call it whatever you want.

I doubt most people ever take the time to think about their expectations for athletes. I know I don't.

I often don't even realize I have an expectation until it's not met.

I experienced a confusing combination of this over the weekend, and it's had me pondering the way I think about athletes.

You'll have to bear with me here because I'm not exactly sure what I think -- and I like to think that's OK. There's no person more off-putting than one whose mind is always made up, whose answers are always simple and always who is sure they're right.

The first thing that happened this weekend was I read the account of the Jackson football team's win Friday.

The story by my colleague Jeff Breer explained how Jackson running back Colten Proffer laid on the ground for several minutes after being hit by two Poplar Bluff defenders. Players from both teams, Breer wrote, took a knee while Proffer was helped by training staff.

Proffer returned on the Indians' next possession and broke free for a 51-yard touchdown. The description was followed by quotes of praise by Jackson coach Brent Eckley.

My silent reaction to reading this went something like this: "Wow! What a tough kid! Kudos to him on being a football player's football player!" (Whatever that means.)

Of course, the story went on to say that Proffer soon left the game for good after going down again, and Eckley said the staff thought Proffer had bruised ribs.

"It might be worse than that," Eckley said after the game. "We don't know."

My silent reaction to reading this: "Why on earth would he keep playing? I hope he's OK. That's sounds terrible."

What it actually was was hypocritical of me. Athletes can't be both praised for acting invincible and then questioned for thinking they are. Nevermind that invincibility is an impossibility to start with.

I had a similar dilemma Saturday when Missouri quarterback James Franklin didn't start for the Tigers. Unlike with Jackson, I have a rooting interest in Missouri, my alma mater.

I was disappointed that Franklin didn't start despite being seen warming up before the game and more disappointed when Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Franklin "didn't want to play."

There's been a lot written and said about this situation since then. I assume that if you care at all you've already read or heard plenty, so I won't revisit the details, which have been enlightening.

The point is, I managed to question someone's decision not to play through pain the day after I cringed at someone's decision to do so.

It's ridiculous, and yet I am confident that I am not the only person who does this. Luckily, I quickly caught myself both times and was able to see the problems with how I thought, but I wonder how often I don't during the times when my logic isn't so obviously flawed.

Here is where I start to wonder what I should be thinking. I'd like to think it's OK to praise an athlete for their toughness and even to expect it, whether it be the Cardinals' Yadier Molina after a collision at the plate or a high school football player who gets up after a big hit.

I like to think it's fine that I subconsciously expect athletes to play through pain but be wise enough to stop when they're injured. Then again, I like to think it's fine that I took four to six ibuprofen before every volleyball game and practice I had my senior year to try to mask the pain from the tendonitis in my knee.

Of course no one asked me to do that. I wasn't injured and it may not have been necessary, but I had my own expectations -- and those can be the hardest of all for an athlete to meet.

Rachel Crader is the editor of semoball.com. Contact her at rcrader@semissourian.com.

Showing comments in chronological order
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My mind works the same way Rachel! It's crazy how our brian works sometimes.

-- Posted by Cheesehead. on Wed, Sep 19, 2012, at 9:24 AM

mys gooness chesshead, whot just does your brian wok Bucko?

-- Posted by bearcat1forall on Wed, Sep 19, 2012, at 11:38 AM

Obviously not as good as yours bearcat! One can only dream to be as intelligent as yourself.

-- Posted by Cheesehead. on Wed, Sep 19, 2012, at 12:08 PM

I had similar thoughts to each case but I think the reasoning is different. High School kid's are expected to be tough by peers but adults, parents, etc. want them to be on the safe side so it looks more heroic when they play through it. On the other hand I think the disappointing part in Franklin is that he had enough strenth, pain tolerance, whatever phrase you want to use to go through warmups but couldn't play. I think people's view of that is if your ok enough to test it and go through with that part that you should be playing. If it hurt to bad to play I don't think he would've been able to even warm up. It's not like he had a knee or ankle injury to where he needed to run on it to see how it felt. That's something you can do once and determine if your ok. I would think his warmups wouldve been cut short if it was to bad.

-- Posted by Thot McGee on Wed, Sep 19, 2012, at 1:17 PM

I think Pinkel/Yost use designed QB runs way too much. You leave a lot more opportunity for injury that way. Also, Mizzou has some great rbs and receivers - give them the ball.

-- Posted by yah-yah on Wed, Sep 19, 2012, at 1:49 PM

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Rachel Crader is the editor of semoball.com. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in May of 2009 before spending the summer covering the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

Highlights from Rachel's days in college include having a class down the hall from Chase Daniel and having NCAA wrestling champion Ben Askren hold the door open for her at Brady Commons, Mizzou's student center. She spent time covering Mizzou basketball, softball and baseball while working for the Columbia Missourian and is excited to return home to Southeast Missouri to cover local sports for semoball.com.

Rachel has covered three Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournaments for the Southeast Missourian and semoball.com, and she'll see you courtside again this year.