You don’t have to be a sports fan to know that we have become a nation of conformists. I can speak about it from my own personal experience in lobbying and education. I have spoken with people in both fields and have had agreement that we have trouble with people who color outside of the lines or seem to be a bit different.
Last year when Yasiel Puig fled Cuba to play ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he came under fire for being very open with his feelings and performed unusual feats on the diamond. He threw from far in the outfield to home plate on a fly and missed the cutoff man. He was criticized for that and for being a menace on the base paths and for just being someone who loves the game. I thought that’s what we wanted in a ball player.
During the 1960’s we had a raft of people who were not afraid to speak out. You might not have liked what they had to say, but you listened. Shelly Yanoff was a red-headed trouble maker (and maybe still is). She was as fiery as her red hair and spoke up for the disenfranchised. The people who have taken her place are those who don’t want to make waves, work within the “system,” and don’t want to anger anyone.
Johnny Football is another example of who we want people to conform. Johnny Manziel does what other 21 year olds do and he gets whacked across the tushie for having fun. No one doubts his football playing ability, but they want to have him sit in his room and not say anything. That is why he was not chosen in the first set of players in the NFL draft. Did anyone ever watch Fran Tarkenton or pay attention to Paul Hornung, or Alex Karras? Come on we like these people and we really don’t want them to be carbon copies of statues.
Now we have Lance Stephenson. He was the focus of his high school team that won 4 straight NYC high school championships. He did things at 15 that some NBA players can’t do. Did you see him guard LeBron James and really get to him? Did you see him blow in LeBron’s ear? What do you want from this 23 year old? He is different (some say too different) and so he gets traded from a contender (the Indiana Pacers) to Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets. I believe Indiana will be sorry for that move.
Do you want to have Yogi Berra conform to some sort of standard? His antics and sayings have become part of the American language. He certainly never tried to be anyone but himself. Let’s give these people some room and critique when they really do something wrong.


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