Sports Fans’ Devotion Tested When Player Misconduct Comes In To Play


C&G Shades On is a special weekly column from Sara Kakuris, bringing a die-hard USC fan’s voice and perspective to Reign of Troy. 

It’s been my experience that sports are one of the most hypocritical aspects of a person’s life. I completely include myself in this. I can get high and mighty about the injustice of Ray Rice’s small punishment or the lack of thorough investigation into the Jameis Winston accusations but, when it comes down to it, my TV is on football every chance I get.

Nobody is going to stop watching football because a player was accused of personal or professional misconduct.

But what happens when the player is on YOUR team? This has been on the forefront of my mind, with Bryce Dixon permanently leaving the Trojans for an undisclosed student conduct issue and “Deflategate” making front page news.

A good example of the conundrum die-hard fans face is the Josh Shaw event that took place last season. In the span of that day, I went from, “Wow, that’s so awesome. It is really good to be a Trojan!” to “Ummmm…huh?” to “Well, this obviously isn’t good. Was he robbing the place?” to “Oh god, this is being described as a potential domestic violence situation.”

Why is it that we have such a hard time condemning our heroes?

We still don’t know what truly happened and I doubt we ever will. He has moved on to the Bengals. But this type of situation puts a fan at a crossroads of whether to defend a player against all odds, whether to distance him or herself or whether to vocally condemn the player and the action.

I generally believe that the responsibility of a fan is directly proportional to the response of the institution to the misconduct. As long as a team takes appropriate public action, it allows fans breathing room to continue to cheer loudly because they remain “the good guys”, just with a bad seed in the mix.

However, when the Patriots released a document that, in part, stated that “The Deflator” actually referred to a guy trying to lose weight, they did not separate out the bad seeds. Instead, they aligned themselves with the alleged crime.

Many of the fans, it turns out, did not see it this way. I thought even the most die-hard would call them out on the seemingly obvious fabrication. However, more often than not, I saw comments from fans calling out the non-fans for not believing the story.

Oct 24, 2014; Bagshot, UNITED KINGDOM; Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush (21) at practice at the Pennyhill Park Hotel & The Spa in advance of the NFL International Series game against the Atlanta Falcons. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Why is it that we have such a hard time condemning our heroes? I see it often with those Trojans who still think that Pete Carroll is a god. Am I allowed to desperately wish he was our coach again, but still think he’s a really shady guy?

I think Reggie Bush received favors and lied through his teeth about it. I think he let the team that gave him his Heisman platform down when he refused to speak to the investigators. I’d still kill for him to be running 60 yards down the Coliseum grass again. Remind me not to read the comments on this column.

All of this to say that I’m an outright hypocrite. I do feel shame about that, but I also believe it’s part of the fan game. We want to win, and sometimes the guys who get us there aren’t good guys.

However, my pride in our good guys far exceeds my shame. Last week, Buck Allen spoke at the student athlete commencement as he became the first in his family to graduate college. A number of our players have gone to places such as Haiti to do relief work. Charity and personal success are part of our team and it IS really good to be a Trojan.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that Bryce Dixon is a kid. Josh Shaw is a kid. Reggie Bush was a kid. We sometimes forget this because, to us, they are celebrities. The USC Trojans are LA’s football team and this puts our players on a far bigger display than normal. I’m lucky my college behavior wasn’t broadcast on ESPN.

Sports are complicated. We put our heart and soul into a group of people who are mortal, and then feel lost when one of them lets us down. Luckily for Trojans, the institution of USC has always been solid and we are safe in being devoted to it.

I welcome hearing your thoughts and any future ideas you’d like to see in a column. Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @SCTrojanSara and tweet me any time.

See you next week and Fight On!

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