DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Character and Professional Athletics

Gabriella Barnes

Professor Caruso

November 29, 2011

First year writing


Character and Professional Athletics

     Let’s say you have a job interview and you bring your resume with you. A resume serves as an inside look at your skills. You can be over qualified for the job, but it doesn’t mean you will get the job. Although your qualifications are important, the interviewer is looking for character and personality. They need to determine if you would be a “good fit” for the company. Character is important to companies, because businesses want to prosper and continue growing. When selecting candidates for a job, the interviewer wants to hire someone with honesty, passion and commitment. The character you posses and the personality you show will make all the difference in your life. Just as companies conduct interviews for prospective employees, sport teams conduct interviews for possible players. Character on and off the field defines a player more than their abilities. Teams believe that sportsmanship comes first and that when a team exhibits sportsmanship, their skills will inevitably improve. In the professional world, coaches consider a player’s character to be more important than skill. It is character that will enable the player to remain focused on the game and allow the player to continue playing cleanly. This kind of player always does the right thing, even in a tough situation, because it is the right thing to do. During the game a player can be suspended or banned from playing if he or she is found having a bad attitude or engaging in unsafe actions towards officials or other players. Even if you are a starter, if you lose your head, you can cost your team. Penalties can even cost teams the game in some cases. Players are expected to follow the rules and not violate them for any reason. Athletes with determination, passion and morals can change the way the game is played. In the past, players have changed the way games are played and they have altered the negative policies to adjust the perspective of a country. Sportsmanship, an amiable personality, and model behavior are anticipated qualities of a professional athlete. 

     Every team can be assessed by the character of its players. Most coaches specifically look for good character in players. When two players have equal skill, it comes down to the accepting the player with the heart and commitment to work at bettering his skills. Bob Ley, a news anchor, for ESPN talked about the 2000 NFL draft.  In his response to a viewer, he spoke about character.  He stated, “NFL teams say they increasingly make draft day decisions based on a most subjective quality, a person's character.” (Ebinger) Especially in the NFL, character is not only the most important criteria for players but also for the morality and reputation of the team and football in general. Not only should the player demonstrate exceptional sportsmanship on the field, but they should also carry themselves with moral fiber. The recruiters look for “players who make good decisions on and off the field...They are passionate... NFL scouts look for prospects with an incredible work ethic and good character.” (“Top 10”) In today’s society, skill is not enough to get you drafted into the NFL. Professional athletes are expected to have good character not only in their professional life but also in their personal life. The players that show the most character are drafted to the team. The team than seeks to use the inherent good qualities of the players to foster sportsmanship, refine their skills and build a championship spirit.


   This idea of building on character isn't a recent one. For decades High school and College coaches have put the emphasis on playing clean and being good sports. In The Dandy Dons by James W. Johnson, Coach George Powles becomes Bill Russell’s major supporter. Bill is frequently taking about quitting because of his lack of skill and disappointment in being cut from both the junior varsity and varsity team. When Coach Powles becomes the varsity coach, he encourages Russell to keep working hard and assures him that he will grow to “be a pretty good basketball player.” (Johnson 6) Russell also remembers his coach talking about commitment, sportsmanship and keeping your temper, all signs of good character. His players were instructed to keep playing the game and not argue with other players or referees. (Johnson 7) Powles not only inspired Bill Russell to fall in love with basketball; eventually his dedication improved his skills dramatically and he was recruited by the University of San Francisco. 

    Football has changed the rule book to also include character as a part of the game. Excessive celebration or gloating are examples of poor sportsmanship that the NFL is looking to stop in the future. These rules relate to the players character and attitudes during a game. As perviously stated, regardless whether the team is winning or losing both teams should act professional. Professionalism is part of the game and with that statement comes the need for good character and temperament. In section 2: Personal Fouls, the NFL official rule book declares that any kicking, striking, or kneening of an opponent; under Article 1 is a personal foul that will result in a penalty.(NFL.com) The official rule states: 

“All players are prohibited from:

(a)  striking with the fists; (b)  kicking or kneeing; or (c)  striking, swinging, or clubbing to the head, neck, or face with the heel, back, or side of the hand, wrist, arm, elbow, or clasped hands. See 12-2-3. (d)  grabbing the inside collar of the back of the shoulder pads or jersey, or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, and immediately pulling down the runner. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.... Penalty: For fouls in a, b, c, and d: Loss of 15 yards.” (NFL.com)

   The NFL encourages good sportsmanship and is very strict when a player violates the rules. Players can cost their team yards or they can be personally fined thousands of dollars. In a recent NFL game, the well known, Ndamukong Suh, was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. During a game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, Suh was seen lifting his right knee and intentionally steeping on Evan Dietrich-Smith’s right arm. On the same play, Suh also shoved Dietrich-Smith's helmet toward the turf while he was separating himself from the tackle on the ground. This isn’t Suh’s first penalty for unsportsmanlike actions; in the 2010 season, he is tied for first place for the most personal fouls with eight penalties (Mortensen). The NFL later suspended theLions All-Pro defensive tackle. Suh is suspended without pay for the next two games. He will miss the Sunday night game at New Orleans and a December 11 home game against Minnesota. (Mortensen) Suh’s suspension may ultimately affect the team’s aspirations for the Super Bowl. Suh’s poor sense of judgment and his suspension has not only damaged his reputation and image, but “it will cost a Lions team that is clinging to hopes of earning a spot in the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season.” (Mortensen) Unfortunately for him, his skills will not be available to the team and his efforts cannot help his team win the games. Even if you are the most amazing player in the NFL, your abilities are worthless if you are suspended from the game. How can skill possibly be credited with winning more games than character? Character is needed to not only to play the game of football, but to win championships.  Most coaches agree that a major component of the game is staying focused on winning and winning a game is about acting professional.  Panthers Coach Ron Rivera advises, “You’re winning, great. If you're losing, stop being frustrated and do your job... This is professional football, act like professional football players whether you're winning or you're losing.” This insightful quote addresses the importance of acting and remaining respectful to the players, officials and the game regardless of circumstances. In the end, it is character that will determines the outcome of the game. 

     Players with character have changed history and the way the game is played forever. Major League Baseball is the oldest sport in America. The first records of games can date back to the 1870’s. When baseball was originally established, there were two separate leagues; the Negro League and the Major League. Some of the nicest and most skillful players like Jerome Dean, also known as Dizzy Dean, supported African American players in their hopes for one day playing in the Major League. Dizzy was not only one of those people who was just a baseball player he was a man of personality. Powers once said“...the amazing part of all this is the continued sportsmanship of the Deans...they are generous, happy-go-lucky fellows.” (Gay 92) Dizzy was known as one of those quality players who had it all. Grateful for his opportunity to play in the Major Leagues and friendly to everyone. He gave credit to those who deserved it. One of the many African Americans Dean complimented was Satchel Paige. Like Dean, Satch was a pitcher, who could throw just as well as the Dizzy. “Diz declared, Paige is the greatest pitcher I’ve ever seen” (Gay 15) Dean’s respect for Paige transcended the traditional views of their society. When he agreed to play against Satch, history was made. Playing against Dean not only helped Paige to establish a name for himself among white fan, but it also proved that African Americans could play at the same level as white teams. At this time, African American teams were not only segregated from the Major League, they also endured humiliation under the Jim Crow Laws. Paige, early in his career had experienced sleeping on a wet baseball field because his team was not allowed in the local white motels. Despite all his hardship Paige never stopped working to one day achieve his dream of pitching in the Major League. Paige’s dedication and overall enthusiasm for baseball, had empowered him to one day pitch as a Major League Baseball player. (Gay) With the support from white players like Dean, Major League Baseball finally became integrated. Since then, the level of play in baseball has risen in each decade. Like Dean and Paige,men with character had opened the door for Jackie Robinson and people of color to join the Major League. 

      To reiterate my theory, character will always be more important than skill. Teams are constantly changing their recruiting techniques to find players with more character. They are particular in choosing young athletes who will work to improve their skill because of their dedication to the game. These players will not only help other teammates improve their skill but character players will also enrich the level of play in general. Teams are now suffering because of the lack of character on football teams. The number of penalties have risen due to new rules that address unsportsmanlike actions.  The personal fouls have become a part of the game and lack character is closely associated with these violations. For some, player behavior has allowed opposing teams to gain points or in some cases, these players have lost the game for their team. Players with an overwhelming sense of character are known for changing the way Major League Baseball is played. In the end, the relationship between character and the game is best described as “The Character Of Sport And The Sport Of Character.” (Oddner) Neither character or game can be discussed without the other.


Work Cited 

Ebinger, Jonathan "ESPN.com - Outside the Lines: Does Character Count in the NFL Draft?" ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports. Espn.com, 9 Apr. 2000. Web. 03 Dec. 2011. 

Gay, Timothy M. Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: the Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball before Jackie Robinson. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Print.

 Johnson, James W.. "Russell's Coming of Age." The Dandy Dons: Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Phil Woolpert, and one of college basketball's greatest and most innovative teams. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009. 4-5. Print.

Mortensen, Chris. "Ndamukong Suh of Detroit Lions Suspended Two Games without Pay - ESPN." ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports. ESPN.com, 30 Nov. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.

Oddner, Frans. "The Character Of Sport And The Sport Of Character." Sport In Society 13.2 (2010): 171-185. SPORTDiscus with Full Text. Web. 4 Dec. 2011.

Reed, Steve. "From Charlotte to Chicago, NFL Emotions Boil over." Official Website of the New England Patriots | Home. 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 03 Dec

"Top 10 Quarterback Tips." Quarterbacking 101. Web. 03 Dec. 2011.

"NFL.com Rulebook." NFL.com - Official Site of the National Football League. National Football League. Web. 04 Dec. 2011.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.