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I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Apology not accepted?

Every single person except maybe Jesus Christ, Buddha, Vishnu, or Mohammed has done something wrong and needed to apologize (more on Jesus in a minute).  From the time we can speak as toddlers, we are taught by our parent, guardian or teacher that if you do something wrong, you are supposed to say "I'm Sorry."  And you are supposed to mean it.  And in general at that stage of life, it's for something like spilling a drink or punching your sibling.  And usually, the apology is accepted.  Meaning that both parties move on and it is no longer held against the offender.  Until the next time your parents are looking and the sibling smacks you back.

Jesus took his ministry so far as to forgive the sins of all, for in the end all that believe in him will have everlasting life.  But I digress.

How does this relate to sports?  Newsflash.  Athletes (and in some cases, the media that covers them) are not perfect.  Far from it.  In fact, their stature, fame, and lifestyle lend itself to doing things wrong.  In a phrase: "Mo' Money, Mo' problems."  Be it people taking advantage of you, marriages that are far from traditional, or a feeling of entitlement (thou can do no wrong and if you do, someone will cover it up).  The cover up part is not happening as well in these days of social media and the hypersonic speed of the news cycle.

Over the past several years, we have had extremely egregious transgressions by athletes or sports media (the charge is my opinion of accusation, not an indication of legal guilt).  Here is a sampling that span the range of all sports, transgressions, genders, and fame.  The link for each offers a video or article on the apology.

Lance Armstrong (PEDs)
Steve Bartman (interference with catch)
Todd Bertuzzi (assault during a game)
Ryan Braun (PEDs)
Kobe Bryant (rape and infidelity)
Riley Cooper (racist comments)
Josh Hamilton (substance abuse)
Marion Jones (PEDs)
Jim Joyce (bad umpire call)
Mark McGwire (PEDs)
Britt McHenry (verbal assault)
Joe Namath (intoxication)
Adrian Peterson (child abuse)
Ray Rice (domestic violence)
Alex Rodriguez (PEDs)
Tony Stewart (wrongful death)
Rick Sutcliffe (intoxication)
Tim Tebow (losing football game
Mike Tyson (cannibalism during bout)
Michael Vick (dogfighting)
Tiger Woods (infidelity)
Don Zimmer (fighting)

Just read through those names.  These athletes and sports figures have literally all been at the top of their game or profession at some point.  But one action or statement and it all came crashing down.  It can happen to anyone; we all make mistakes.  So an apology is offered.  In some cases, seemingly showing legitimate remorse (Jim Joyce, Tim Tebow, Don Zimmer).  In others, more forced (Ray Rice, Mike Tyson, Ryan Braun) or disingenuous (Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Britt McHenry).  There's been tears, there's been significant others next to them, there's been their organization supporting, sometimes not.  But not all apologies are created equal.

As a courtesy to athletes and frankly anyone in life who messes up (that's you unless you are a diety), here are a few criteria to consider if apologizing

1) Do it soon.  The longer you wait, the more it will seem forced and disingenuous.
Examples good: Tim Tebow, Jim Joyce, Don Zimmer
Examples bad: Mark McGwire, Ryan Braun, Lance Armstrong
Examples never: Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa

Tim Tebow apologizes to Gator Nation right after losing to Ole Miss

2)  Say it like you mean it.  People can see fake.  Reading a statement doesn't come across as sincere.  It comes across as doing it to meet a requirement.  Look into the camera and speak from the heart.
Examples good: Marion Jones, Tim Tebow, Mark McGwire
Examples bad: Tiger Woods, Britt McHenry, Mike Tyson, Michael Vick
Mark McGwire is genuine in this apology for use of PEDs (albeit late)

3)  Let your actions do the talking.  Whatever you did wrong, try and fix it, preferably without fanfare.  If you are truly sorry, you will act to reconcile.  A phone call (not a tweet) to someone who was affected goes a long way.  Volunteering to help a cause that does good in the area you committed a transgression (battered women's shelter, animal causes, etc.)

Examples good:  Tim Tebow (won title), Don Zimmer (quit brawling), Michael Vick (Humane Society)
Examples bad: Ray Rice, Tiger Woods, Britt McHenry
Detractors thought Michael Vick's campaign for the Humane Society was less than genuine

4) Do something extra.  Find a new way to interact and win back your fans.  Volunteer your time, be visible in a positive way, but be genuine about it.

Examples good: Ryan Braun (answered ticket phone), Josh Hamilton (personable with fans)
Examples bad: Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Stewart.
Josh Hamilton "photobombs" Rangers fans

Ultimately it is up to the fans to accept an apology.  I find myself in each case having trouble forgiving some (Britt McHenry, Lance Armstrong) but easily accepting others (Steve Bartman, Jim Joyce).  Human emotion is a tough thing to reconcile with.  But one thing is for certain.  Athletes will keep messing up and keep apologizing.  But will we accept it?

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