I’m not always a big fan of Jeff Van Gundy’s NBA commentary. But on Wednesday night during the Clippers/Mavericks game he made a point that really stuck with me, one pertaining to a topic that is at the forefront of the sports world’s mind: the Dallas Cowboys and Greg Hardy. JVG commented on how Dallas Mavericks fans were wholeheartedly booing Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan following his much-publicized near-signing with the Mavs this offseason. He remarked that while this was going on, these same people would be cheering on Greg Hardy when he plays for the Dallas Cowboys this coming Sunday. I had to take a moment to process this before I realized that he’s correct, and that is a damn shame.
There are certainly Cowboys fans who are anti-Hardy. For example, Lana Berry, podcast host, prolific Twitter user and Cowboys fan, has made her feelings about Hardy known to the public. But without any metrics to prove or disprove my opinion, I would assume that there are a great number of people (although likely not a majority) who frankly don’t care that Greg Hardy is a woman-beating piece of scum. People care about their team winning more often than they normally care about the personal lives of players. Can you help our team win? We love you! Are you hurting our chances of winning a trophy? Get the hell out of town! This is the way it goes for many fans, but this can prove to be an unfortunate scenario when faced with a situation like Hardy’s.
I’m a proponent of separating the personal lives of athletes and their athletic prowess to a point. When it comes to the sexual orientation of athletes? I couldn’t care less, I just want to see you play well on game day. When it comes to whether or not the athlete is a nice person or a relative jerk off the field? It’s unfortunate if Player X isn’t very nice in their private life, but there are worse things that he or she could be doing (assuming they’re not somehow negatively affecting someone’s livelihood) and the only part that affects me is whether or not they’re helping my team. Then we have a person like Greg Hardy, who beats women to a pulp and shows absolutely no remorse for his egregious actions and continues to act like a pig at best. As a fan and as what I like to consider a decent and reasonable human being, this is where I have to draw the line on what is an acceptable separation between athletic ability and personal life and actions.
I have made my opinions clear on Greg Hardy and this current situation with the Cowboys. On my radio show, on Twitter, I have made it clear that I despise Greg Hardy, I despise his actions, I despise his personality and the mere fact that he’s still employed by an NFL franchise makes me sick to my stomach. I’d like to see someone try to defend Hardy as a person, because that means I would have found a person so out of touch with reality that it’s truly a spectacle that they’re able function in society on a regular basis. Greg Hardy repulses me and frankly I hope that he disgusts you as well. It’s not ever an OK thing to do to hit a significant other, let alone beat them within an inch of their life like Hardy did to Nicole Holder. But he is a phenomenal athlete, a physical specimen, and as long as he’s playing well on the football field then we can let that slide, right? No, actually, that’s simply not justifiable at this point.
Fandom is a strange construct. For some, their support of a team is casual, they may be happy when that given team wins but it doesn’t have a long-lasting or impactful effect on them, the same being said for when that team loses. Then there are some fans who live and die based on their team’s results, riding a blissful high when they experience a win and sulking in disappointment (and/or anger and/or sadness) following a loss. I can admit that I often fall into that category, especially when it comes to supporting my favorite NFL team. Of course, we must account for fans who fall somewhere in-between these two specific definitions. This construct and these rationales relate to the situation at hand because some of the fans who fall into the category of obsessed fanatics are willing to overlook the pathetic nature of people on the team they’re supporting. If you read the previously linked Lana Berry tweet, which came immediately after Greg Hardy recorded his first career interception earlier this season, you will see that there are plenty of people willing to overlook despicable actions for the sake of a nice play in a football game. Frankly, that is something I can’t stand for.
This doesn’t pertain solely to the Cowboys and their fans, even though the number of team supporters backing Hardy is revolting and Jerry Jones’ continued support of him and asinine comments about “leadership” drives me to pure fury. There are still plenty of Minnesota Vikings fans who adore Adrian Peterson and continue to support him despite the fact that he’s a child-abusing waste of space. There are numerous examples of fans forgiving (or at least willfully ignoring) heinous acts by athletes because hey, they can help the team win on Sunday. This is a sad reflection of the current state of fandom in sports. I get being fanatical, I get being nearly obsessive because I am well aware that I fall into these categories fairly often, probably way too often. But when we’re faced with a scenario in which a player who changes his mind before signing a contract with a team is booed more openly in a given city than a bonafide domestic abuser who has not repented for his vicious crime, it is time to re-evaluate which part of the general sports concept is most important.
Greg Hardy nauseates me to a point where I expect to be afflicted every time he opens his mouth (or when the owner of the team opens his mouth, for that matter). There is absolutely no denying that there are many people out there who feel similarly, people who cannot stand such a remorseless, terrifying person. But these people are not the concern because they clearly notice an issue with egregious violent actions. It is the people and fans who practice willing ignorance when it comes to Hardy’s past and current situations who should concern the rest of the sphere of sports fandom. I’m not a perfect person by any means, but I like to think I am above rooting in any way for a player who abuses someone as viciously as he did Nicole Holder. I wish that this was a sentiment shared not just by most people (which I firmly believe it is), but by all sports fans, whether they support the Dallas Cowboys or not. Until we reach that point though, we’ll continue to experience players getting booed for things far less atrocious than domestic violence, while athletes who commit malicious acts are revered solely for their ability on the field, regardless of how ghastly they act off of it.
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Featured photo courtesy of USA Today.