When good comes from bad

September 19, 2012
Softball game at dusk

In today’s world of 24/7 sports radio, television and the internet, most kids are exposed to “all sports, all the time.” Given the media’s preference to sensationalize the darker side of sport rather than to highlight the sensational, young sports enthusiasts are fed a steady diet of athletes behaving badly. They don't necessarily represent the role models that most parents would choose for their children or the behaviours they would want their children to emulate.

Every once in awhile though, this nonstop coverage of athletes behaving badly can perhaps produce a good result. Toronto Blue Jays star shortstop Yunel Escobar’s homophobic actions this past weekend may just be a case in point.

Escobar chose to wear the Spanish words “TU ERE MARICON” on his eye-black during the Blue Jays game on Saturday. While the interpretation of the meaning of this phrase varies depending on who is interpreting it, it can be loosely translated to mean “You are a faggot.” Other interpretations of the word “Maricon” apparently include “effeminate” and “weak.” Most people agree the expression is meant as an insult and that it smacks of homophobia.

By any measure, the act of wearing these words on his eye-black was wrong. Regardless of language, culture or any other mitigating circumstances, such an act by a professional athlete was unacceptable and it was met with a fairly stiff sanction (three-game suspension) meted out by the Blue Jays. Escobar also participated in a media conference where he apologized for his actions and explained that he had not meant to offend anyone. The incident, the analysis, the sanction and the apology were treated to the 24/7 sports media sensationalized coverage.

This is where good may have come from bad. Young athletes and sports fans watching the coverage of this bad behaviour may also hold homophobic views and attitudes. Sadly, it is not uncommon for young athletes in male sports in North America to hold such views and to hurl such verbal insults at their opponents. The coverage this incident was treated to, however, would have certainly sent a clear and unequivocal message from the athlete, the team and the media, to all athletes at all levels of sport, that this kind of behaviour and these kinds of attitudes have no place in sport or society.