Opinion: Krushed by the pathetic pros

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Online Poster

By Chris Kozak

More than 16,600 rabid, orange-clad Illinois fans packed Assembly Hall last Wednesday. The jumping, screaming and yelling members of the Orange Krush generated enough electricity to power a city the size of Decatur. The dismantling of then-No. 1-ranked Wake Forest by the Fighting Illini put an exclamation point on a night I will always remember. Never before have I experienced such an energized environment with fans showing so much school spirit while still showing respect toward an opponent. It was two hours of everything that’s right about sports.

When I returned home that night, I tuned in to ESPN’s SportsCenter for the third time to further soak up all the positive media attention the University was receiving – and to once again see Chief Illiniwek featured as part of the show’s lead-in. However, the beginning of the show was interrupted with breaking news: Major League Baseball sluggers Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds admitted to using steroids in a grand-jury testimony leaked to The San Francisco Chronicle. Bonds, of course, claimed he didn’t know he was taking steroids. Yeah, and Christmas from the Vatican is cancelled this year because the Pope just found out he’s Jewish.

Big-time professional sports have become an absolute disgrace. We have NBA players running into the stands to punch out fans. We have NHL players and owners who are too greedy and thickheaded to realize that if they don’t reach a labor agreement, there might not even be major professional hockey in North America anymore (not that anyone actually cares at this point). And, we have Major League Baseball players who have doped themselves to gargantuan proportions in order to hit 60 home runs every season – all in the name of earning even more personal glory and almighty bling-bling. My, what role models indeed.

I’m not saying these issues are limited to the professionals. The NCAA has its share of cheaters, too. Plus, not every college team plays by the rules (ahem, University of Missouri basketball program). But when looking at the big picture, most of the problems still lie in professional sports. In my mind, this is the main reason why amateur athletics are far superior to professional athletics. Sure, the skill level is greater at the professional level, but the entertainment amateurs provide far surpasses that of the pros.

At professional sporting events, you watch and cheer insecure prima donnas who could care less about how their team is doing, as long as they get their 10 catches, 100 yards, and touchdown with the celebratory dance. Like the Budweiser commercial, as long as someone’s payin’, they’ll be playin’.

At a college event, you watch student athletes give 100 percent because they love their sport and love their team. Like the pros, being a college athlete also is a full-time job. College athletes, unlike professionals, also need to show at least some semblance of a brain, because they have to do well in their classes in order to play. Goodbye, free time. For many people, being a student is a full-time job on its own.

Call me old-fashioned, but it’s just more rewarding to cheer on my classmates than it is to watch an NBA player throw down a one-handed dunk and grab his crotch while hanging on the rim. And there’s nothing more exciting than when a walk-on gets in the lineup and scores a touchdown near the end of a college game. He’s subject to the same rigors as his teammates on scholarship – but hardly ever gets to play and has to pay his own way through school. He is the ultimate definition of “student athlete.”

I prefer to root for the athlete who plays for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back, thank you very much. And it’s an absolute shame that last Wednesday, those wonderful two hours of spirit and sportsmanship took a back seat to the ever-increasing sick, disgusting world of big-time professional sports.

Chris Kozak is a senior in LAS. His column runs Wednesdays. He can be reached at [email protected]