Fans tire of hearing athletes described as geniuses

By Paul Strauss: Start with the basics. What should it mean when someone is described as a genius? Generally speaking, a genius is thought to be someone with extraordinary intellectual power or superior mental abilities. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean a person has to have been formally educated. There are many examples of individuals becoming self-educated. What's troublesome in sports is when an individual who manages to perform physically at a high level in some athletic endeavor is then anointed by an announcer, or someone in the media as a genius!

Unfortunately, that simple criteria allows for describing a neanderthal like Mike Tyson as a genius? Mike was a great Hall of Fame fighter, who also was a student of the game. But, a genius? Nah! Even more frightening, it could mean top boxing trainer Roger Mayweather and his often repeated refrain, "They don't know shit" has a touch of genius to it? What? Or, maybe it's when an announcer calls Little Money a genius because he manages to attract fans hoping to see him get beat, because this brainiac insulted them with his repugnant behavior? Wow, how smart is that?. Let me see, he's willing to sacrifice his reputation and character in order to fill more seats and make more money. Yep, that's genius alright.

Jack Johnson was the first to be credited with the ability to attract non-fans to his fights, people who cared little about boxing, but simply wanted to see him get shut up and taken from the limelight. Was Johnson a genius because of it? Probably not. He did speak several languages, and he was a great fighter, no doubt about it. But, more than likely, the color of his skin had a lot to do with it. Muhammad Ali greatly admired Johnson's black arrogance and bravado and tried to emulate him. Ali was also credited with having a touch of genius for realizing wrestler Gorgeous George's theatrical gimmicks as a villain worked in attacking fans to his wrestling matches. Wow! What a discovery. It apparently never dawned on Ali that others recognized what George was doing as well, but they weren't willing to act the fool just to fill seats and make more money. Is this really genius? Remember, Ali is the guy who couldn't pass a basic intelligence test needed to enter the military. He explained it away by babbling that he was the greatest, not the smartest. Okay, gotcha!

More than once, we see athletic greatness manifest itself through the thick head of someone who might think a Rubics Cube is a pretty colored block. Through their limited mental capacities, they are able to unknowingly simplify what often times can be complicated mental and emotional processes. This isn't a bad thing. On the contrary, because of it, fans are often times rewarded with some unbelievable displays of greatness. But genius? No.

At risk of being unkind, It's kind of like, "Too stupid to know any better." In golf, compare it to the greatness of a Jack Nicklaus, who understood and mastered every aspect of the game, as opposed to someone like John Daly, who seems to adhere more to the philosophy that calls for "Gripping it and ripping it!. Call Nicklaus a genius to his face, and he would think you were an idiot. Say that to John, and he might shrug and say, "Let's have a beer." Maybe it's a stretch to compare Nicklaus and Daly, but they both definitely were talented and both won Majors. Someone once asked Hall of Fame baseball player Kirby Puckett for his philosophy on hitting. Kirby said something like,"I just go up there and swing as hard as I can, in case I hit it!." Simple and effective? Yes! Genius? No.

Usually the problem isn't with the athletes themselves. Few think they're geniuses. Most times they are humble, with a few notable exceptions, and just play or box for love of the sport. The real problem comes when some nitwit announcer or reporter starts calling them geniuses. These commentators and reporters try to explain away their tendency by qualifying or limiting it to the field of play or what takes place inside the ring, and not life in general. But, fans know better. The word genius just doesn't belong in sports. The reality is otherwise. For example, most fans understand these so called geniuses often times haven't really learned how to deal with the pressure of the big game or show. Rather, fans know and understand that often times these, shall we say, simpletons are too stupid to be nervous. It's okay, fans don't care. They don't expect their hero's to be geniuses. They just want to see physical talent and greatness. Is that bad? Who really cares if the athlete understands all of the ramifications involved with the task? If all the athlete knows is what his mother told him when she said, "You're great and can succeed." That's enough. Is it commendable? Yes. Genius? No.

Article posted on 17.09.2011

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