Sport must be amateur or it is not sport. Sports played professionally are entertainment.
One of my favorite basketball players of all time is Dennis Rodman. I liked Rodman because he made a mockery of basketball. Now, let's not make Mr. Rodman the scapegoat here because I think all professional athletes make a mockery of their respective sports. What I appreciate about Rodman is that he mocked the sport flagrantly and without apology. Rodman was not always as flamboyant as he is today. His NBA career started with the Detroit Pistons where he was a dedicated player who put heart and soul into the game and earned the nickname "The Worm." But his time with the Pistons ended in personal crisis as the team was broken up after their championship runs. When Rodman was traded to the Spurs, the Dennis we know today emerged. What made this change in this low key role player? Rodman embraced the fact that basketball was entertainment. He wasn't there to play ball. He was there to put on a show.
Rodman made a statement about professional sports that is lost today. Sports in which the athletes are paid are inherently corrupt. No professional sports star can ever be a hero. Because millions are riding on an athlete's performance, sports as a whole has turned to performance enhancing drugs to ensure that the show is performed to the exaggerated expectations of the viewing audience. People debate how prevalent PEDs are in various sports, and they point to the fact that so many athletes do not test positive on random drug tests. But as the career of Lance Armstrong proves, you can survive an entire decade of cheating without getting busted. Lance was make believe. Part of the reason he was able to get away with it is because people wanted to believe in him. Another part of the reason was that those in charge of the sport of cycling wanted to believe, too. Lance was big money. But once the checks were cashed, Armstrong could be disgraced. The sad thing is that it is a sure bet that all professional cyclists are on some sort of PED.
Fans of sports wring their hands about the situation. Should PEDs be allowed? If not, how do you catch the cheaters? And, how will you ever clean up sports? The answer to these questions is an easy one. You don't need fancy tests to detect steroids and EPO. If there is money in the sport, there are performance enhancing drugs. This is professional football. This is baseball. This is track and field. This is the Olympics. If money is to be made from prize purses, salaries, and endorsements, there will be cheating to get it. Cleaning up sports is easy. Remove the money from those sports. When this happens, steroids and EPO will vanish.
This crazy idea of removing money from sports is called "amateurism." Back in the day, people from the upper classes participated in sports without financial remuneration. They did it for fun or what have you. Golf and tennis spring to mind. Then, colleges and universities got in on it and maintain the outward dedication to amatuerism to this day even if it is a sham. But then, people started to see the potential for profit because these sports were great entertainment. So, professional sports were born. Gambling was the first corruption followed by performance enhancing drugs. Professional boxing is a complete joke which no one watches today because of its corruption. Other sports like professional football, hockey, and MMA resemble human chicken fights. Cheating is so bad now that people take it as a given that their favorite athlete is on the juice.
When sports become professional, they become corrupt. Anyone who participates in these sports is corrupted by association with these sports. I will go further. Any athlete who accepts money for being an athlete is corrupted. That last statement is a showstopper. Now, we do not hesitate to say that a woman who has sex for money is a prostitute. Well, an athlete who performs for money is also a prostitute. This is because they are doing it for something other than love. And when you, the fan of professional sports, watch your games on television, you are watching athletic pornography. You are not watching human beings performing at the height of their virtues but merely watching people abusing their bodies to make a dollar.
Some will make the argument that the paid actor or the paid musician is no different than the paid athlete, but they do not see the error in their thinking. The paid actor is making believe. The paid actor is paid to entertain. The same is true of the paid musician. For the creative artist, integrity has more to do with selling some additional product like branded vodka or iJunk from Apple. But that is the subject for another essay. I can say that I am on safe ground when I make the claim that people expect their athletes to be more than just mere entertainers. If they didn't, professional wrestling would be more widely watched than professional football. Boxing fans wouldn't be so upset over the numerous fixed fights that have turned boxing into professional wrestling. Sports fans wouldn't care that a baseball game was thrown to help gamblers make a huge profit. But sports is entertainment which is why sports fans are either gullible dupes or jaded cynics.
People ask me why I gave up watching sports, and I tell them that if I am going to watch make believe I will just rent a movie. My advice to people is to stop watching sports. Give them up. Take back your time you are wasting watching bad entertainment. Watch a movie and play sports instead. A sport should be something you do and not something you watch. It could be hiking, bowling, golf, running road races, or playing hoops in the driveway with your kids. Be your own hero for a change. This is the essence of amateurism. And if you are good at a sport, enjoy it at the highest unpaid level possible. This would be collegiate intramural sports because even college sports have been tainted by professionalism. Or, you could just bowl in the local league. You will have fun and probably get in shape.
If it is amateur, it will be clean. If it is professional, it will be dirty. Just don't try and fool yourself into thinking that professional is clean. It isn't. Professional sports are entertainment. Rodman knew it and elevated his game into a circus. He put on a good show because that's what fans want. They want the win, and they want the lies to be true. A professional athlete is a professional liar. A fan of professional sports is a dupe. It will always be this way.