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Is It Unreasonable To Expect Athletes To Act Like Decent Professionals?

Maybe we're simply expecting too much?

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Being a professional, responsible human being has always been something that I thought we should all aspire to be. I was raised in a Christian home, and a lot of my values were instilled by my hard-working parents, and I think it's safe to say that that's where most of us get our values from. Even without a stable home in one's past, I still think that it isn't unreasonable to think that people generally want to act (or at least appear) professional in a public environment.

The same can't be said for Josh Beckett, and so many other athletes in the sports world today.

For whatever reason, quite a few athletes come across as childish, insecure, insensitive, and simply unprofessional. There is a culture in sports today of entitlement, and that certainly plays a major role in that condition. That isn't to say that entitlement didn't exist before the modern day era of sports, but it sure seems like more of an issue now than it used to be. Granted, I'm still young.

Take Beckett, for example. Is there a more unprofessional athlete in Boston right now than the Texas Tough Guy (copyright, Mike Felger)? He never owned up to the chicken and beer saga of last September, the one that cost Terry Francona his job and resulted in one of the biggest, most embarrassing meltdowns in baseball history, went golfing on an off day when he was supposedly injured, and has a "First Class, White Trash" beer bottle opener next to his locker (I thought beer was banned in the clubhouse?). Really, Josh? It doesn't get much more unprofessional than that.

We also have the likes of John Lackey, who called the beer and chicken scandal "retarded" -- his word, not mine. And then there's David Ortiz, who has made a habit of whining about how the Red Sox have been disrespecting him during contract talks and how he feels embarrassed by it.

Give. Me. A. Break.

To be fair, not all athletes are like that. Even in this town, there are plenty of athletes who are completely professional, even on the Red Sox. As I'm writing this, I'm listening to Dustin Pedroia answer questions, very respectfully I might add, about the Red Sox' latest blunder -- a 10-9 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday afternoon. He certainly doesn't look very happy -- quite the contrary, he's very defeated -- but he's answering the questions honestly and respectfully. That is professionalism at its finest, and really, that's how it should be in an ideal society.

Here's the thing, though. Sport aren't a representation of society. They don't represent how people act and interact in everyday life. This is a realm where people are paid millions of dollars to throw and hit a baseball, shoot a basketball, throw a football and shoot a puck, all while being treated as deities. Call me crazy, but that doesn't exactly represent the real world.

The average age of a professional baseball player ranges from 26.5 years old (the average age of the Kansas City Royals) to 31 years old (the average age of the New York Yankees Yankees). According to Abigail A. Baird of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, the brain "achieves maturity at age 25 or 26." Of course, that's different for everyone, but plenty of professional athletes fall into that age group. We aren't talking about 40- or 50-year-old businessmen or women.

Frankly, we're talking about young adults.

The average age in the NFL was 27 in 2011. In the NBA, there's more than a handful of players that are between 19 and 21 years old in the league today. In the NHL, the oldest player is only 21 years old (OK, that's not true, but sometimes it seems that way -- the average age in the NHL last season was roughly 27-28 years old). Get the point? These aren't aged and experienced people.

Just look around. "Unprofessional-ism" is everywhere. You can find it in every professional sport. And while we're at it... maybe we shouldn't be calling them "professional" sports anymore?

Perhaps we're simply expecting too much from today's athletes? I'm certainly not condoning stupidity or some of the truly moronic things they do or say, but if we look at the facts, these are still young adults. Maybe lowering our expectations would help us to lower our blood pressure?

It's hard to say. On one hand, we've established that these are only young men and women. On the other, our own children (OK, your own children. I don't have any children) are looking up to these larger-than-life athletes. Do we really want to send the message that it's OK to come off as a jerk?

The choice is, as always, up to you in the end. Please choose wisely. Really. It matters.